State tests need to be used properly

Since standardized tests are not going away anytime soon, it’s time to revise the way they are used (“New York’s state English exams are a horrific waste,” New York Post, Sep. 30).  At present, most state tests are administered in April, but the results are not released until summer.  That makes no sense.

I say that because the primary purpose of standardized tests is to provide teachers with feedback about their instruction.  The sooner they get the results the sooner they can revise their lessons.  For students, the delay is even more troublesome because it’s too late to enroll in summer school.  In New York City, this year’s summer school enrollment was down by more than half since 2013.

Further, unless standardized tests are directly aligned with the curriculum, scores are relatively meaningless.  They essentially are measuring what students bring to class in terms of their socioeconomic backgrounds rather than what they learn in class through effective instruction.  That’s an important distinction given short shrift in the debate.

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2 Replies to “State tests need to be used properly”

  1. Not sure what the NY standardized tests are. Back in the 1960s, NY administered what were called “Regents” exams in high school courses. The Regents tracked the curriculum (at least that’s my recollection) and there were “Regents review books” that students could purchase to help prepare for the Regents exams. My recollection is that the Regents exams were given very close to the end of the school year — perhaps two weeks before the end of school in June and the tests were scored in time for the student’s score to be entered on the student’s final report card. Looking back now as an adult, I think the Regents exams were an excellent tool — for encouraging students to review the course curriculum, for measuring how much students retained from the year’s instruction, and for comparing how much students at School A learned relative to students at School B (but not for measuring the quality of teaching at the two schools).

    The Regents exams were not given in middle or elementary school (except for the students who took high school courses in 8th grade), so they could not be used to measure anything about middle or elementary schools.

    In any event, completely agree that, if a state is going to give standardized tests, the tests should be given as close as possible to the end of the school year + the scores should be reported as soon as possible — before the end of the school year.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: I took the Regents exams as well. I still have the review books that were readily available. The standardized tests now administered are more controversial because they are not nearly aligned with the curriculum and they’re too new to allow students to prepare for them. Nevertheless, there are those who are adamantly opposed to any standardized testing. I think they do students as disservice.

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