Test scores bring debate
by Bret Bradigan
There were no big surprises at Tuesday night's presentation
on test scores at the Ojai Unified School District board meeting;
Ojai students continue to outpace their peers in the state and
But lively debate did ensue about the need for, and value of,
Tim Baird, the district's assistant superintendent of curriculum,
did note that Nordhoff High School scores "have seen a decline
across the board," however slight. Don Humer, a school board
candidate attending the meeting, asked if the decline was related
to classroom sizes, saying that he had substitute taught English
classes at the high school with 30 to 35 students. "The
more kids in the class, the less instruction they get,"
Board member Bob Unruhe said, "There's way too much emphasis
on testing in this district," and that Ojai's scores were
a reflection of the city's relative affluence. "There's
a high correlation between socio-economic status of the family
and the test scores of the students."
"Teachers, the school board and students will stand up and
say, 'Enough.' I think this time is arriving."
Baird agreed that testing takes too much time and attention away
from instruction. He said there's a saying making the rounds
in education circles, "A farmer doesn't make his cow any
fatter by weighing it more often."
Superintendent Van Riley said that while testing does "take
time out of instruction, there's a balance there ... Parents,
teachers, students have a right to know. It's real important
to assess where we are. Throwing out testing is not the answer."
Baird explained that "normed" test results cause confusion,
with people looking at the results and thinking that, for instance,
Nordhoff's 63 percent in science scores meant that the school
received an "F" on the test, when, in fact, Nordhoff
outpaced all but 37 percent of their peers. The norms are set
with questions calibrated to be answered correctly 50 percent,
and answered incorrectly 50 percent. These norms are set by testing
a representative sample of students, and they are then used for
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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