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[Susan notes: Walt Gardner has to be the champion at getting letters published in prominant publications. And he always cuts to the heart of the matter in elegant fashion.]

Published in Christian Science Monitor

To the editor

Regarding the Nov. 30 article "A city's schools test a new way": Turning classrooms into test preparation factories invariably results in improved scores, but at what price? That's the real question about the modest improvement in standardized test scores in the Philadelphia schools operated by educational management company Edison Schools, Inc.

Granted, Edison agreed to take on the job of running the worst-achieving schools in Philadelphia serving the hardest-to-teach students. That's a challenge no one envies. But it's no excuse for incessant drilling for a specific exam. Whatever gains occurred under Edison's aegis in these circumstances will not transfer into learning that can be measured by other tests.

A study of overall learning gains in 18 states with exit exams, conducted by David C. Berliner and Audrey L. Amrein of Arizona State University, reported that improvements on the state tests did not show up on gains on other tests, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The researchers concluded that high-stakes testing does not increase student learning.

If the goal is to improve educational quality, then Edison's approach will shortchange those students most in need.

Walt Gardner

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