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Latest SAT results no reason to relax

On the surface, the news about the latest round of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores is good news.

Monday, September 06, 1999

On the surface, the news about the latest round of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores is good news. Math scores are down slightly, but reading scores are at the same level they have been for four years.

While increasing scores are nice, there are some underlying concerns about the ways tests are being used not just statewide, but nationally as well.

One of the other statistics revealed in this week’s results announcement is that some students’ scores on the test do not seem to justify the grades they are receiving in school.

Depending on how you interpret that finding, either the test is too tough or it is a lot easier to get good grades these days.

As increasing pressure is put on schools and teachers to better educate the nation’s children, more and more benchmark tests and standards have been added to the list of graduation requirements for the nation’s students.

In Ohio, one of those measuring sticks is the Ninth Grade Proficiency Test.

Many teachers complain that the Ninth Grade test started out a lot tougher – and was a real measure of what a high school student should know before he or she leaves school. They say they have watched it progressively weaken and that students who should not be passing the test are getting by with the scores they need. In other words, the test is easier and the statistics about scores are better.

The same theory could also apply to grades in some schools across the country. Maybe it is just a little too easy to get an A in some places.

To create an education system that really focuses on the needs of the children and that graduates students who are prepared to enter the work world, statistics and elevated test scores cannot be the measure by which schools make policy.

If students need help and the majority are not able to pass a basic skills test, society has to do more than just point a finger at the principals and teachers. Real reform means looking at what students are learning and how well they are retaining the information they are taught. It also means supporting schools by volunteering, paying quality personnel a premium and making sure the schools have the tools available to teach.

Artificially elevated scores and grades will only make the problem worse. Our children deserve better.