To standardized test or not to test

It is true that standardized tests alone may not give teachers an adequate picture of a student’s knowledge and learning ability. But the tests are not intended to be used in isolation.

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Standardized tests, writes a Sun-Times reader, should be just one measure of student achievement, along with factors such as classroom participation and homework.

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Gina Caneva’s assertion, in a guest column on Friday, that all standardized tests are bad and useless is more than a little over the top.

She is right that using a standardized test in isolation may often not give teachers an adequate, viable picture of a student’s knowledge and learning ability in a specific subject. However, those tests are not intended to be used in isolation. They are to be included in files on the student’s in-class participation, homework, and personal data such as special needs for mental and/or physical problems.

Further, there are other types of tests (diagnostic exams) that are often very useful in determining students’ more nuanced strengths and weaknesses in particular subject areas.

My wife spent 30 years teaching in mostly inner city schools for CPS. She can tell you first hand that frequent ”social promotion” of students who are far behind the appropriate grade level in major subjects — in her case math — makes teaching nearly impossible. She regularly complained about students in her sophomore and junior classes who didn’t know multiplication tables or division, taught in second and third grade, let alone anything about algebra or geometry. 

It’s a sad fact that social promotions are the norm, not the exception, in CPS. To exacerbate the problem, CPS just decided that every single student gets promoted this year. Let’s see how a fifth grade teacher copes with a class in which the majority of students are not ready for fifth grade reading or math.

Ms. Caneva can probably get away with condemning standardized tests in her suburban school. She better find objective, viable and proven alternatives to social promotion and gut feelings when assessing student performance.

Tom Sharp, Edgewater

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When a child is led astray

I am so terribly saddened by the violent death of Adam Toledo. I keep asking myself, “How?”

How did a 13-year-old become so mesmerized by someone who placed him in extreme danger? How did Toledo get to the point that he decided to leave the security and comfort of his home in the middle of the night? How did he get to the point that he decided to follow someone who didn’t care for him as his mother or family cared for and loved him? How can other children meet the same person and not act in a similar manner?

It is a nightmare to imagine that one’s child could meet the same fate because some adult has that kind of power over them. How can these fatal attractions be neutered?

Addressing policing policies alone is not enough.

Christine Burton, Roscoe Village

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