Getting sensible about testing: Good move by state board
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Sep 15, 2009 | 1526 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It's never been easy to feign enthusiasm for the Draconian testing requirements piled upon students and teachers by the No Child Left Behind Act. Likewise, the same can be said for Alabama's tepid response to that legislation.

Apparently, similar beliefs aren't uncommon.

Last week, the Alabama Board of Education changed the state testing regimen, did away with the Alabama High School Graduation Exam and put in place a program that will add more than two weeks of instructional days to the school year.

Instead of the five-section graduation exam, which was given in addition to regular classroom testing, now the final exam given at the end of the course will serve that purpose. In addition, the score on that final exam will not be the sole determining factor about whether a student graduates — just as the score on a final is not the sole determining factor in passing the course.

Result: time saved, money saved, test given when it should be given, pressure on student and teacher lessened.

Moreover, all 11th graders will be required to take the ACT college entrance exam, along with a writing assessment. In addition to giving educators another means of assessing students, this will also save money, classroom time and possibly encourage some students to go on to college after high school.

Other testing will include a college readiness assessment for middle-schoolers, an academic progress and college readiness exam for 10th graders and a job skills assessment for 12th graders. Don't expect whiplash-style changes, though; these alterations are being phased in over several years.

Still, there's every reason to believe these changes will be worth the effort. "It clearly sends us on a new path to have every young person in public education be on a pace to be career and college ready," state Superintendent Joe Morton told the Associated Press.

Once, students in grades one through eight would be given a series of tests that would take up to two weeks of instructional time; sometimes that time would be increased in schools where test preparation included pep rallies and other motivational activities. Under the new plan, students will undergo a three-day test that will cost less and alleviate some of the pressure from students and teachers alike.

Not only will these changes comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, they will give administrators the information needed to see if schools meet Adequate Yearly Progress goals. These changes appear to answer most of this page's earlier concerns about the NCLB legislation.

By giving students more time to learn their subjects, by returning the focus of testing to the classroom and by supplementing final exams with respected standardized tests, the Alabama Board of Education has taken a step in the right direction.
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