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[Susan notes: In response to dreadful New York Times editorial on the need for testing, this letter has a great summing up line: Students can't thrive at school if they must concentrate on surviving the outside world.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re: Don't Give Up the Gains in Education. School administrators take many factors into account when evaluating their staff members. Test scores do not. Additionally, test scores are often unreliable indicators of students' ability and teachers' knowledge and skill.

If a student is stoned, sleeping through class, truant, abused or refusing to do assigned work, that student is very likely to have low test scores despite the best efforts of award-winning teachers.

Studies confirm that factors outside of school control for 60 percent or more of student achievement. While teachers are the single most important factor within a school, they still control for just 10 to 15 percent of a student's achievement.

Class sizes, availability of school nurses and social workers, extra help for struggling students, enough books to enable students to take them home to study -- these and other factors outside a teacher's control dramatically affect student test scores.

The overwhelming needs of students and their families are too large for school staff alone to meet. Unfairly blaming teachers does nothing to meet those needs.

It's time for politicians, parents, businesses, churches and others to all pitch in to help needy students and families. Students can't thrive at school if they must concentrate on surviving the outside world.

Nancy Papas

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