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[Susan notes: Good letters take a variety of approaches.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

New York's deceptive test scores were not caused by making questions public after administering the test. States, including Massachusetts and Florida, have long made exam items public without any problems. Disclosure of SAT items, required for more than 20 years, created no score scandals.

The real problem is that New York officials, starting with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel I. Klein, ignored the recommendations of assessment experts in pursuit of their shortsighted school "reform" agenda. By judging classrooms primarily on standardized exams, they encouraged testing gamesmanship. The predictable result, inflated scores without improved educational quality, is common in the No Child Left Behind era.

Parents, children and taxpayers would be far better served if politicians understood the well-documented limitations of standardized exams rather than continuing to pursue misguided high-stakes testing policies that undermine real learning.

Monty Neill

Boston, Oct. 12, 2010

The writer is interim executive director of FairTest.


To the Editor:

You are right to bring the difficulties of high-stakes testing to light. But the true problem with the exams is not the one you cite; rather, it is obscured by the typical reaction to quantitative measures of teacher efficacy.

Politicians' use of the test scores for political gain has become rampant in the No Child Left Behind regime. By tweaking the test or the standards used to gauge proficiency, state and local officials can exert a great deal of influence on the scores under their jurisdiction.

Thus, the exams, and education itself, become far too politicized. Any tests and metrics used so extensively to grade our students, teachers and schools must be created and administered by third parties with no stake in the outcome.

Jeffrey Ober

New York, Oct. 11, 2010


To the Editor:

Your article prompts the following question:

The National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association and many other professional organizations for decades have expressed their opposition to making educational decisions based on mandated standardized test scores. They have pointed out that diagnostic teaching is far better than standardized testing.

In light of the above, choose the best answer:

A. Cities do not pay attention to the views expressed in resolutions by professional organizations.

B. States do not pay attention to the views expressed in resolutions by professional organizations.

C. Teachers know what's going on in their classrooms.

D. All of the above.

Allen Berger

Savannah, Ga., Oct. 11, 2010

The writer is a former chairman of the Resolutions Committee of the National Council of Teachers of English.


To the Editor:

You highlighted critical questions regarding the New York State Education Department’s role in perpetuating the use of flawed test data. Three points demand a follow-up:

(1) The idea that teachers "could gauge their students’ performance better than mass-produced tests":

Public schools in Finland, which rank first on international assessments, depend on teachers’ assessments. How much of taxpayers' money has been wasted on flawed commercial tests instead of valuing teachers’ assessments?

(2) Reviewing past tests accounts for the huge grade inflation:

Using past tests as test prep has been standard practice for decades. And would McGraw Hill’s $80 million contract for interim assessments that mimic test questions count as test prep?

(3) Chancellor Joel I. Klein's proposal that the state Education Department adopt New York City’s accountability system:

Since 85 percent of a New York City school's grade comes from test scores, Mr. Klein's proposal just perpetuates the problem. Isn't it time we support other factors when evaluating schools?

Deborah Meier

Hillsdale, N.Y., Oct. 12, 2010

The writer is a founding principal of four New York City public schools.

multiple authors

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