Everybody’s talking about test scores

Everybody's talking about test scores by Hank Rubin, Joint dean of education SDSU & USD Everybody�s talking about student test scores. Terrific!

It�s not that the test scores are consistently terrific: predictably, they�re not. What�s terrific is that people are talking about how well children are learning, and that�s a good thing.

Students� test scores for every district in South Dakota were reported to the press today. And by reporting these scores, newspapers, television and radio stations have become partners in the most important conversation any community can have: a conversation on the questions

How well are we educating our children? And what do we need to do better? Outside of issues of national security, I can think of no questions that are more important to the future of our communities, our state and the nation.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act has forced every student and adult to participate in a national dialogue on these questions. In some communities, the dialogue has taken on the tone of pointing fingers of blame and responsibility. But we make a mistake if we try to attribute student performance (good or bad) to only teachers or parents or any other single contributor.

The fact is that while teachers and school administrators may be the only adults who are paid to worry about how to help each student learn, they�re not the only ones responsible for students� learning. Every one of us, in some way, shares in that responsibility.

School board members, legislators, business people, family members and social service providers all share responsibility for ensuring that each child arrives on time to a safe school, nourished and ready to learn, with the resources he or she will need and is met at the door by a highly qualified and caring teacher. And the students themselves share responsibility once they�ve reached a certain age. Their job is to try to learn and to approach schooling as the beginning of a lifelong commitment to learning.

In most communities, teachers have always been viewed as intellectual and ethical leaders and neighbors who reflect our values. This is why we trust them with our children. We trust our universities and colleges to prepare our teachers with knowledge of their subject areas and dispositions that ensure that each teacher cares deeply about each child�s learning.

From pre-school through doctoral studies, when it comes right down to it, it�s the job of all educators to make sure that classroom teachers are knowledgeable, skilled and disposed to make a difference in students� learning.

Tests are diagnostic tools. Whether or not the test results make us happy, they give us the kind of information we need in order to make responsible decisions. Students are tested and district scores are reported to the public so that every one of us can know what�s working, what�s not and what we can do to contribute to improved student learning.

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