New test scores, old headaches | Editorial

Okay — now what do these numbers mean? The results of two new measures of student learning in our state were released last week. One is the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) and High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) The results are a bit confusing, showing once again just how difficult it is to find the best way to judge the success of our public school system. But beyond relief that our district ‘passed’ the Annual Yearly Progress test (AYP), is it really true that suddenly only about one-quarter of schools districts in our state are judged adequate when it comes to preparing students for work and life beyond the classroom?

The Mercer Island School district did fine on both sets of tests. However, several other fine school districts in Western Washington did not. Are they suddenly falling down on the job? Or does it mean that a new test measures things differently than the old one. Likely. Tossing out the old tests means trading one set of issues regarding results, for another. Just like any test, the new ones will require fine tuning in order to determine what students have learned vs. how well they can apply the skills they possess — and how they are or are not, comparable to past results.

Many bemoan the continued emphasis on testing. Many say that districts who do well are those who ‘teach to the test’ and that in doing so, shortchange the learning process. But that is the way of the world. School administrators and parents here are always tuned in to these types of evaluations; what they mean and what they do not mean — mindful of the importance of scores and the district’s reputation for preparing students for college. For parents, a higher test score means a better chance at ensuring success. For teachers, it is also an important way to see what students are missing. Tossing out the WASL was something that many wanted. But for those of us on the sideline — parents and likely college admissions officers — we just want to know if our graduate will be equipped and ready to handle the challenges ahead.

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