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[Susan notes: With more of this kind of hometown activism, we could win this fight.]

Published in Wheaton Sun

To the editor

High School Diplomas to be Held Hostage
by Standardized Tests in District 200

I need your help. District 200 wants to withhold diplomas from anyone who does not take the state’s standardized tests in high school. The policy change was posted at the April 14th meeting, and is up for public review and comment for 30 days.

The Prairie State, usually taken by juniors, is a two-part test: the high school version of the ISAT and the ACT (a college entrance exam). It's far from a “basic proficiency” (can they read, write, do basic math) assessment. These tests are loaded with random bits of information that become absolutely irrelevant for the vast majority of us, once we’re out of school. And District 200 wants to deny diplomas if kids don’t sit through this stuff?

The online high school ISAT practice tests include questions regarding: the North Star appearing to be stationary in the night sky, environmental changes that occurred based on vertical rock sequences, constructing RNA molecules from a coding strand of DNA during transcription using complementary coding, examples of concurrent powers of government, choosing the country that has a command economy, the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl link, identifying the cause of the 1970’s gasoline shortage.

It gets better. They also have to take the entire ACT, the college entrance exam so many of us took ourselves. Pages of higher-level math, difficult passages loaded with errors to correct (and then a comprehension question on the entire passage!!)

What is going on here? I know it’s valuable to someone, somewhere, but for EVERY KID, no matter how they learn, to take a test like this??? What about all the students who want a high school diploma so they can learn to fix our cars for us, or do our hair?

See it for yourself. Go to the ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education) website. Click on the PSAE practice tests. They’ll link you to a private McGraw-Hill site that runs all this practice testing for any state willing to pay them. You can even take these tests yourself and see how you do. Maybe the Board and Administration of District 200 should take every one of these tests, before they require it of our kids – and then newspapers can post their scores!

NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) insanity have brought high-stakes testing to District 200’s doorstep. The current policy change requires “completion,” not a particular score. But if the district chases the illusive AYP, they will have to coerce the kids into doing their best – and a minimum score will be required for graduation – mark my words.

Parents who have had enough need to speak up. Residents who care about other people’s children need to speak up. High school diplomas should not EVER be hinged on standardized tests.

Tell the School Board of District 200 NOT to pass this policy, or any other policy, that makes high school diplomas dependent on a standardized test.

Lee Prior

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