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score? There’s no denying that test scores are a big deal in today’s society. They can greatly affect real estate prices — dictating where people will live and won’t live — and can foster either community pride or uneasiness. They are the yardstick by which we measure student achievement, plotting the course of a student’s future as an adult. But an inherent defect of the testing system is the fact that test scores alone do not demonstrate the full range of a student’s abilities or their capacity to learn. The focus on high- stakes testing and the pressure on educators to teach to the test tend to deny students a well-rounded, multifacet- ed education — and often leave students emotionally stressed and unprepared for the rigors of higher learning where critical thinking skills are a necessity. Stories by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin • Photos by Scott Buschman In the following stories you’ll read about the current controversial na- ture of testing in California. We dis- cuss with educators the science of testing and how the majority of tests are structured so that a certain per- centage of students will consistently fail. You’ll read about one teacher who previously taught in an affluent com- munity in Walnut Creek (where test scores are above average) and now teaches in an economically depressed region of Richmond (where scores are below average) — the same teacher with significantly different results in each setting. We’ll also take a look at the inner workings of standards- based testing and see how tests are in- trinsically flawed, seldom taking into consideration the many socioeconom- ic and cultural factors that affect the students of this diverse state. As educa- tors, if we really want to provide California’s students with the best pos- sible education and a greater head start on a successful future, we need to ask ourselves the question: What really is a test score? >>> november 2009 | 9

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