, Muskogee, OK

January 27, 2014

Tests should not be sole measure

— Performance on a single, high-stakes test should not be the sole factor to determine whether a third-grader will advance.

A state law enacted in 2011 said students who do not read at grade level by the end of third grade cannot move on to fourth grade. This year’s third-graders are the first class to be affected by the law.

The four levels on the third-grade reading test are:

• Unsatisfactory, 400 to 653 points.

• Limited knowledge, 654 to 699.

• Proficient, 700 to 903.

• Advanced, above 903.

Students who score “unsatisfactory” will not be allowed to advance.

Though a student should be able to read on grade level before advancing, a single test may not provide an accurate reflection of a child’s reading skills.

“One test is not a fair determination of whether a child is reading on grade level,” said Hilldale Elementary third-grade teacher Amie Sheets. “You have no idea what had happened to the child the day before, yet everything is based on one day, one test, one time.”

What are grades for? We seem to be tossing out the evaluation of a student’s skills and performance over time in favor of a one-shot measure that could be affected by a number of factors beyond simple academic skill.

Testing has a place as a measure of students’ skills and educators’ performance, but everything should not hinge on a single measure.

That is like walking into your workplace and being told that your performance today will determine if you get to keep your job.

That is not how employers evaluate worker effectiveness. It should not be the way we determine whether a third-grader becomes a fourth-grader.

Testing should be done. The results should be important. But so should a student’s day-to-day reading performance and that student’s improvement over the academic year.