Column

From the Editor's Desk: Are standardized tests becoming a shell game?

It’s been many years since school, and I honestly don’t remember how many or exactly which standardized tests we took. Iowa Basics, is one name I recall.

Stress wasn’t an issue as multiple choice tests were the easiest part of school besides lunch. Showing my math work was another story. Plus, darkening ovals all day meant no homework. Can’t lose.

We didn’t take as many tests as my kids take now. But to be honest, my kids don’t stress about them either. I only know they take them because I see the results around parent-teacher conference time.

School administrators and teachers stress about them often, and I understand why. They need to prepare students for these tests as well as prepare them for future education.

Last year, kids took PARCC tests for the first time, which by most accounts was a disaster. The results certainly were. So the explanation from school officials was that it was a bad test and this was the first year.

Less than a third of Illinois students met or exceeded PARCC expectations. School officials said it would take several years of assessment before we could accurately determine whether our students were getting any better.

This week, the Illinois State Board of Education announced it was eliminating PARCC for high school students and replacing it with the SAT.

That’s all fine, but in the meantime last year was wasted and we have no means to judge student progress that we weren’t supposed to be able to judge the previous year.

We have a lot of mixed feelings about student test scores. Sure, every kid is a unique snowflake, and how dare we put a number of a child’s potential etc., etc.

But the point of standardized testing isn’t only to measure Suzy Snowflake’s progress, it’s to measure how our schools are doing on a macro level. I’m starting to wonder why Illinois wants to make it so difficult for us to do that.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH.

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