Local officials concerned by politicizing of standard scores

Local officials concerned by politicizing of standard scores by David Lias Len Griffith, the Vermillion School District�s standardized test coordinator, is concerned when politicians, from presidential candidate George W. Bush, to Gov. William Janklow, talk about using school funding to try to increase test scores.

�My concern is that the standardized tests (administered at many South Dakota school districts) don�t take a look at students� differing abilities,� Griffith said. �A smaller school will look great one year in the ACT. The next year, they might be at the bottom. The impact it (the test score) has with one point is amazing. The impact is incredible.

�Statisticians or politicians or schools can make themselves look really good, or make themselves look really bad, depending on how they want to skew those stats,� he added. �Fortunately, we have a large enough group in our school so that our comparisons and our reports are pretty accurate. The larger you get, obviously, the more accurate you�re going to be, because your sampling is much bigger. I feel sorry sometimes for the smaller schools.�

One of the state�s smaller school districts that comes to mind when Vermillion officials discuss test scores is Estelline.

�Last year, they came out on top and they had all of this great publicity,� Liz Hogen, Vermillion school�s curriculum director said. �Now there�s a lot of pressure on them. They had such a small group; they had 12 kids that they tested, and the instructor said this was an exceptional group. They scored high, and now they are up there in the spotlight. That�s a tough spot to be in.�

�That�s why tests should not be for trying to get in the spotlight. They should not be used to compare Estelline, Vermillion, or any other schools. That�s not their intent.�

The reason standardized tests are developed and administered, Griffith said, �is to determine whether or not your school is meeting the criteria for giving students the best advantage in this global community.�

Griffith said the Vermillion School District also relies on more than testing to determine if it is meeting its goals.

�We look for the outcome. We want to know what�s happening with our juniors and with our seniors. We want to know what�s happening with our graduates, and what�s happening with VHS grads five years down the road and 10 years down the road,� Griffith said. �Does that mean that we just go back to the high school and change it? No. Because we know it�s a stepped process in learning. It�s a building process in any of the disciplines. The way we use them is so meaningful.�

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