By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Central Unified Teachers Association member Joe Lucido guides Dakota Fauntleroy through a problem at Liddell School in Fresno. Photo by Scott Buschman
There's no denying that test scores are a big deal in today's society. They can greatly affect real estate prices — dictating where people will live and won't live — and can foster either community pride or uneasiness. They are the yardstick by which we measure student achievement, plotting the course of a student's future as an adult. But an inherent defect of the testing system is the fact that test scores alone do not demonstrate the full range of a student's abilities or their capacity to learn. The focus on high-stakes testing and the pressure on educators to teach to the test tend to deny students a well-rounded, multifaceted education — and often leave students emotionally stressed and unprepared for the rigors of higher learning where critical thinking skills are a necessity.
In the following stories you'll read about the current controversial nature of testing in California. We discuss with educators the science of testing and how the majority of tests are structured so that a certain percentage of students will consistently fail. You'll read about one teacher who previously taught in an affluent community in Walnut Creek (where test scores are above average) and now teaches in an economically depressed region of Richmond (where scores are below average) — the same teacher with significantly different results in each setting. We'll also take a look at the inner workings of standards-based testing and see how tests are intrinsically flawed, seldom taking into consideration the many socioeconomic and cultural factors that affect the students of this diverse state. As educators, if we really want to provide California's students with the best possible education and a greater head start on a successful future, we need to ask ourselves the question: What really is a test score?