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In response to the No Child Left Behind directives, one area of Northern Indiana has developed Essential Skills testing as an assessment tool for elementary students. The tests are based upon the Indiana State Standards and fluctuate content based on grade-level. The entire battery of tests for each grade covers only math and English but have at least one test per State standard. The goal for each grade level is to test each student on each test and achieve a Mastery level score (87% or greater) before continuing to the next grade level. If a student scores lower than 87% (satisfactory or non-mastery), then they will require remediation and retesting on a different test identical in topic but not in content (Form B).

There are a number of problems with testing of this nature I decipher as an elementary educator:

  1. Students are tested on a topic with approximately ten questions.
    Ten questions easily lead to failure when a student missed two questions that may have been ambiguous or simply not on their game. As with any testing timing and structure is key and with ten questions missing two or more requires retesting.
  2. The tests have not been validated.
    As is the case with too many assessment methods there has been no testing validation. The importance placed upon these tests is such that validity needs to be established.
  3. The tests are out of context.
    The scope and sequence of our curriculum and our teaching structure is such that these tests fall at awkward points as well as miss many important factors or focus on minute details. This leads to over testing, unbalanced teaching, and confusion.
  4. Remediation ends up eating time.
    The remediation and retesting required is so excessive that it becomes physically impossible without an aid of some sort. Furthermore, even with an aid then the teacher needs to teach the aid how to teach and remediate and still retest. This is valuable instruction and plan time that is then refocused inappropriately.

At the moment it is possible the schools may pull the Essential Skills testing from the elementary schools but only in favor of yet another form of testing/remediation based on the standards. Personally, I feel these tests miss many key testing points that can be aided by coupling the pencil/paper testing with performance-based testing. And thus the education debate rages on.

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