Students shouldn’t be made to feel inadequate simply because they didn’t score well on a computer-generated district benchmark. One test does not determine a child’s academic progress. In order to know if a student has made progress, a school district needs to look at the whole student.
Recently my nine year old son came home crying. He had taken a computer reading test at school and his score had dropped. I asked him if he had taken his time during the test, to which he responded that he had. I reassured him, that it was not the end of the world. He began to call himself stupid.
Though this may seem a bit dramatic, my son has reason to be concerned. His school district is utilizing these computer reading benchmarks as a means to retain students. If a student does not achieve a specific score, s/he has to attend a four week summer school session. During the last week of summer school, the student must then retake the test and show sufficient growth. If the student does not show sufficient growth, s/he is retained, regardless of his/her grades. The district is clearly telling students that their promotion boils down to this one test score. Everything else is insignificant.
Children are more than just test scores. They are the sum of their yearly academic work. Some children, like my son, don’t do well under pressure. They get anxious and shut down when faced with high stakes testing. One student took this test twice during a day and had a 100 point difference between her two scores. How valid is this test then? How can we truly measure learning if a test gives the same student very different scores? While I understand utilizing the benchmarks to find students’ weaknesses in order to strengthen them, I don’t understand or condone the retention of students based solely on the score of one test.