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Every time I hear about the failure of the nation's schools as reported by the National Assessment of Education Progress (also called Educational Testing Service), my blood boils.

Because this outfit has federal funding and is arrogant enough to call itself "The Nation's Report Card," everybody listens. But its testing and results are invalid.

From my experience, having used their testing in writing two years ago at Barker Central School, I have found the following flaws, and I am confident that there are more. For one, the test has no built-in student accountability. Therefore, kids don't take it seriously.

Second, the test does not test writing. It tests the student's ability to know what specific ideas the inventors of the test expect the students to include. If a student's writing is creative, inventive, lucid, mechanically clear but doesn't include the same specific ideas the test-markers expect, that paper will earn one point out of a possible four. On the other hand, if the student mentions the acceptable ideas but uses horrible form, the student could receive four out of a possible four.

Moreover, modern theories of teaching writing have several built-in characteristics, all of which are encompassed in what is commonly called "the writing process." An important part of the process that students everywhere should be taught is to preplan, here called "pre-writing." Another part is revision. Another part is editing. And obviously, anyone would expect a final draft.

But the tests we gave from the National Assessment of Education Progress allowed seven minutes from the time the student began to read the question until the paper was collected from him. Incredible! In no way does this test evaluate the writing of our nation's students. The very best writer I have had in 22 years of teaching scored one, and one of my very worst scored four.

Someone needs to take the credibility away from this outfit and discover that our students really are writing decently. The horror stories that we hear all the time do not exist in my classes, but the testing service would say they do.


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