Educators express doubts on SATs

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 24, 2003

In the wake of news that nine out of 12 Selma City schools have been placed on watch status due primarily to low scores on the Stanford Achievement Test, several area superintendents and school administrators expressed mixed feelings about the usefulness of the test in measuring a student’s ability to learn.

The test has been used for years to measure students’ knowledge about specific subjects. But many school officials believe the state Department of Education is placing too much significance on the final scores.

School of Discovery Principal Gerald Shirley said he was disappointed when his school was placed on watch status, adding that he believes the results should have been scaled in a different way.

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Shirley noted that students who require special education services learn on different levels and require more attention. He said their SAT scores are often lower than those of other students, but they still impact the school as a whole.

While City Schools Superintendent Dr. James Carter acknowledged that tests for measuring student achievement have their limitations, he said he feels strongly that there should be accountability in schools when it comes to quality of education.

Carter said he does not see where the SATs have any major impact on the performance of either the students or teachers.

Educators at some private schools, where students normally fare somewhat higher on the SAT, also expressed misgivings that the test has assumed an importance out of proportion with what it was originally intended to measure.

Meadowview Christian Principal Steve Morgan said that while a school’s test scores might look good, most people really have no idea what they mean.

Whatever inherent shortcomings they may possess, most school administrators don’t expect tests to go away anytime soon. For good or ill, test scores have become a political yardstick for judging how well a our schools are doing.

Morgan said the SATs are not a good indication of students’ knowledge because of the way the test is being used. &uot;The SATs do not really look at where students are performing. It doesn’t take an Einstein to pass a test,&uot; he said.

Morgan said that while Meadowview’s scores are up since he assumed the helm last year, he does not put a lot of pressure on his teachers to achieve high test scores.

The only fool-proof way to make sure students are learning in school, Morgan added, is for parents to get involved in their children’s education.