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Our Opinion: Testing: Keep our heads up

January 18, 2002

The state released the 2001 Academic Performance Index base report this week and the findings are what we might expect. Most Imperial Valley schools rank low in the state, based on student performance on the Stanford 9 test and the California Standards Test in English-Language Arts.

Is that reason to panic? No. The API numbers for the Imperial Valley tell just a part of the story of what is going on in our schools. And the numbers are not all bad. Several schools rank high and rank even higher when compared against 100 schools in the state with similar characteristics.

Our schools are improving. Teachers are doing their jobs. They are not teaching to help our children do well on tests, they are teaching the students to meet standards set by the state. There is nothing wrong with that. The state should set standards by which students and schools should be judged. We want to know that our children are gaining the skills they need to succeed in life. We would applaud a little less testing and a more rounded education, but standardized testing is the big thing now, so we have to go along with it.

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Regardless of whether test scores are high, teachers are proving every day that they can be innovative and creative in the ways they teach our children. We have expanding reading programs that are helping our children to see how fun reading can be, and that cannot be measured by a test. Teachers are sparking interest among our children in computers, in history, in science, in math and in the arts. That is what teachers are supposed to do.

Our schools and our teachers deserve credit for the work they are doing. Our children deserve praise for every improvement they make, no matter how big. We live in an area where there are a large number of students who are English-learners and it takes time to improve their language skills. We know how challenging it is to learn a new language and still learn the other skills needed to succeed in school. Most such students are meeting that challenge.

So while the numbers are not great, we should hold our heads up and continue running along the road to improvement. We are confident that in years to come more of our schools will rank higher when compared with schools statewide. We are confident many of our schools will soon reach the state growth target for improvement in test scores.

We also expect to see more of our schools and our teachers receiving state accolades. That is how it should be. Teachers are having to learn all over again how to teach our children and they continue to respond to that challenge.

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