Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Editor's Page - of Standards, Tests, and Good Sense

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Editor's Page - of Standards, Tests, and Good Sense

Article excerpt

WELL, THE numbers are in from Florida. And, while they have nothing to do with butterflies, dimples, or hanging chads, they ought to elicit the same level of attention and concern from the nation's politicians, its mass media, and corporate America. But I'm not holding my breath.

Those numbers show that minority students in schools serving significant numbers of both minority and white students in Palm Beach and Broward Counties scored better this year than last on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). That's the good news. The bad news is that the scores of white students improved even more, causing the achievement gap between whites and minorities to grow wider than ever.

What those data suggest is that, with time and resources and steadfast determination, educators can successfully teach to a test. But the data also suggest that even excellent test-prep cannot overcome the learning problems that poverty poses for schoolchildren. Evans Clinchy discusses the ramifications of that reality in this month's issue.

Yet, as we know too well, school reform in America today is primarily a matter of ratcheting up standards and then testing children to make certain that they are measuring up. Education Week examined the current reform effort in Quality Counts 2001, issued on January 11. As the executive summary of that publication points out, "State tests are overshadowing the standards they were designed to measure and could be encouraging undesirable practices in schools. Some tests do not adequately reflect the standards or provide a rich enough picture of student learning. And many states may be rushing to hold students and schools accountable for results without providing the essential support."

Here are a few other interesting observations from Quality Counts 2001:

* Daniel Koretz, a senior social scientist with the RAND Corporation, is quoted as saying that most states he looks at "set performance goals without any reference to what students actually do, or what research says about how much improvement is feasible. …

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