Testy over School Tests

Article excerpt

Before either George W. Bush or Al Gore becomes the "education president," they should take this simple test:

Which of the following is true:

1. All standardized tests are imperfect measures of student ability.

2. Not all tests can be compared reliably with one another.

3. Tests are being improved to become better indicators of achievement.

4. Tests are necessary to judge the progress of students and schools.

5. All of the above.

If both presidential candidates chose "5," there might be more light and less heat in the latest political dust-up over educational testing.

The heat comes from a study by the Rand Corporation, a California think tank that's normally neutral enough and smart enough not to release a politically charged report just days before an election.

The bad timing alone casts doubt on the study's integrity. But critics are also taking issue with its conclusion that students in Texas did not do as well on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam as they did on their own statewide exams. Comparing the two tests doesn't make sense, they say. And anyway, Texas students generally fare very well compared with those in other states.

Nonetheless, Mr. Gore has used the study in TV ads to undercut the Texas governor's educational claims.

It's doubtful such charges will sway voters in deciding which man will do the best job of improving local schools from Washington. The candidates are better judged on their clear differences over federal education policy.

Still, a national debate on school testing has its merits, even if just to educate the candidates. …

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