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[Susan notes: This letter writer has crafted a great little essay on the atrocities of focusing on test scores]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re "Drama Teacher Mourns Student, and Talents That Died With Her," by Samuel G. Freedman (On Education column, June 9):

The best teachers inspire students in ways that are not measured or measurable by standardized state tests. Which was more important in Sarah Fox's brief life: the influence of her drama teacher or her score on a required standardized test?

The accountability movement fails to take into account noncognitive outcomes. These are arguably more important than the skills and knowledge imparted in the classroom.

Affective skills in the form of attitude, punctuality, responsibility and teamwork, for example, are better predictors of future earnings than are test scores. Yet they are completely overlooked when teachers and schools are evaluated under the No Child Left Behind law.

Top education officials seem to view consideration of any other evidence than test scores as a sign of weakness. As a result, instruction is becoming more focused on what matters least in the lives of young people.

Walt Gardner

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