The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 10, 2013

Students can’t opt out of standardized tests in W.Va.

BECKLEY — While some students in other states are deciding not to take standardized tests, that option is not available in West Virginia, Raleigh County Schools Superintendent Jim Brown reported Monday.

Brown stated that West Virginia school systems are held accountable for having 95 percent participation rate on standardized testing of students, especially on the math and language arts portions of the tests.

“We don’t have flexibility,” said Brown. “The state provides a testing window and make-up window.

“The expectation is that all students that are enrolled will take the state assessment.”

 West Virginia students in grades three through 11 take the WESTEST 2, while eighth-graders take the ACT Explore and 10th-graders are assessed by ACT Plan.

Students in grades three and eight may also be randomly selected to participate in a national assessment, Brown said.

Certain students, such as those who are home-schooled, may fall under exemptions.

“They’re still required to be able to demonstrate proficiency, but that can be done in various ways,” Brown said.

Some parents have criticized current standardized testing practices as being aimed toward meeting No Child Left Behind standards. Those standards are used to assess teacher performance and are linked to federal funding.

Critics of the process have argued that the tests place more emphasis on teacher performance and not enough on student learning.

Brown said that while he does not dismiss critics’ concerns, there are pluses to standardized testing.

“I don’t think anyone would ever advocate over-testing students, but there are some true benefits as far as being able to provide personalized learning for students who may be at risk,” he said. “At the same time, on the very other end of the scale, we have students who test very, very, very high.

“Having that assessment data to help inform instruction is invaluable.”

Brown pointed out that to enter college or the military, students must take standardized tests to demonstrate suitable proficiency.

“What we have is a set of standards that teachers are expected to teach and students are expected to be able to demonstrate mastery of,” he explained. “We need to be able to know what they learn and what they can do with those skills.”

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com

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