Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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Opinion

April 22, 2012

U.S. overestimates importance of standardized tests

It’s absurd to evaluate educators by one criterion.

LOGANSPORT — I’m a retired educator. Like many other old-timers in my profession, I am proud of my work. I hope that my pride is justified. My career spanned over 40 years of effort to help young people learn. I wish I could say that all of my students learned everything they were supposed to, but I know they didn’t.

I can’t even claim sole responsibility for what they did learn. Other people also contributed to their success, chiefly – but not exclusively – fellow educators and parents. Ultimately, my students, themselves, deserved most of the credit for their achievements.

We are just completing the spring testing cycle for Indiana students, both public and nonpublic. A few weeks ago, I read Lindsey Ziliak’s article about how well our local students are doing on the ISTEP examinations. I read it with a degree of caution. The article itself is certainly appropriate. We all want to know how our kids are doing. At the moment, however, the answer is no more dependable than predictions of who will win the presidency this November.

The only thing we can depend on is that school principals will express optimism. What else should we expect? Every good salesperson knows that you can’t sell much without being enthusiastic. That’s the way to motivate people to buy a product. It’s also the way to motivate students to put forth their best efforts on ISTEP.

When I was a principal, news people also asked me how my students were doing before the ISTEP results were available. An upbeat, positive answer was mandatory. Anything less would discourage the students I wanted to encourage. A football coach who was having a bad season once told me, “I tell the players and fans more about my hopes than my expectations.” That wasn’t a bad strategy. Sometimes I have used it myself.

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