Our Opinion: Another test

January 08, 2001

We have some concerns about the state's decision to add an exit examination to graduation requirements for high school students starting with the class of 2004.

While we are all in favor of higher graduation standards, we are not certain another standardized test is going to help. Local school districts are already moving to focus their curricula on testing material, having said that teaching students to pass this test or that test is critical. The problem is focusing on a standardized test covering mostly English and math teaches students mostly how to pass a standardized test on English and math. The new requirement will likely further divert already thinned funds and efforts going toward arts, music, science and other topics not as important to the exam. Instead of developing the whole person we seem to be developing a generation of test-takers.

While administrators are right that students must be taught the material on the test to have a fair chance of graduating, that doesn't mean it will be easy or fair. Plans are in the works for intensive assistance in areas of the test with which students struggle, and students will have as many as 10 opportunities to take the test.


But some students just aren't good at standardized tests, while others may struggle with a single section of the exam no matter how rigorous the curriculum. Some of our local students, new to the language, will struggle in the English portions and may never pass that area, despite their rigorous efforts and good brain power. Learning English as a second language can be that tough.

And taking a test 10 times, on top of all the other standardized tests being required by the state and federal government, is a drain, and the students still have homework and tests in their classes to worry about as well.

We support higher grade-point average requirements for high school graduation. We support community service requirements for high school and even college graduation. We support the end of social promotion. We want to see our high school graduates truly educated and ready to go on to higher learning or to enter the work force.

What we don't want to see is students who have drilled so hard for standardized tests that they don't know what to do without a No. 2 pencil and a Scantron form.

English and math should certainly be given a prominent role in any curricula, especially in high school. And we look forward to the high schools working with junior high schools to make certain students are working in the right direction early.

But a single test should not determine whether a student is ready to graduate. That should be determined through four years of well-rounded education.

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