Legislators, students say list of tests is too long, biased

By Stefanie Frith,The Associated Press
Thursday March 21, 2002

SACRAMENTO — With the SAT 9, the High School Exit Exam, Golden State Exams, SAT I and SAT II, California students face too long of a required list of standardized tests, a group of students told the California Teacher’s Association and legislators on Thursday. 

Students at the meeting said the Legislature should condense the list required of students in grades 3-11. 

Some of that is happening now, said Robert Spurlock, the state’s assistant education secretary. He cited a law passed last year that created a study of how students may bypass taking Advanced Placement exams if they have high enough scores on the Golden States Exams. Those are voluntary tests in 13 subjects given to seventh through 12th graders. Students who do well get a special seal on their diploma. 

But Jeff Orlinsky, a member of the California Teacher’s Association, said each test has its own special purpose. 

”(For high school students), only the Stanford 9 and the High School Exit Exam are required,” Orlinsky said. “The rest are voluntary.” However, there is a long list of tests required of elementary school students. 

While many tests are technically voluntary, students feel compelled to take them anyway, said Susan Chen, a junior at East Los Angeles’ Woodrow Wilson High School. 

“We are tired of testing. The tests are all my high school can talk about,” Chen said. “And tests like the SAT I and SAT II and the Golden States are voluntary, but it’s the norm now to take them if you want to be a part of the real world.” 

Sen. Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach, agreed, saying, “We could combine some of these tests. Everybody wants to test everybody on everything. I think that’s absurd.” 

However, the state needs standardized tests to measure school performance, said Phil Spears, director of standards and assessment for the California Department of Education. Spears did not attend the meeting at the Capitol sponsored by the LegiSchool Project at California State University, Sacramento. 

Spears said students are probably upset with being held accountable for their own actions, such as with the High School Exit Exam. If a student doesn’t pass this exam, they cannot graduate. 

The state Department of Education said a problem might be that some schools have failed to embrace the academic content standards for grades K-12 that lay out what students should know for each grade level. Spears said this has put their students at a disadvantage because they are not mastering the standards. 

Therefore, some schools devote a lot of time to teaching students how to take the test, including hours spent on learning how to fill in bubbles for multiple choice tests. 

Spurlock said the state is fighting this by working with test writers in California to phase in tests that measure the standards taught in California schools. 

Using comments from meetings such as Thursday’s, the state is consolidating some of the tests, Spurlock said. 

Now is a time of increased interest in standardized testing, because most tests are taken in the spring and President Bush recently signed a bill requiring annual state tests in reading and mathematics for every child in grades three through eight, beginning in the 2005-06 school year.