Originally created 06/02/06

System ponders cutback on tests



AIKEN - As Aiken County pupils prepare to take a new nationally standardized test this fall that will provide a more up-to-date assessment of their skills, district officials have responded to parents' concerns and said a reduction in testing is necessary.

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills will replace the TerraNova test in schools.

The Iowa test will determine pupils' knowledge of math and reading compared to average scores from across the state and the nation.

Frank G. Roberson, the associate superintendent of instruction, said the standards - which are set by the state Department of Education - have evolved over the years, causing the TerraNova test to be outdated.

The TerraNova test assessed standards from 1995, while the Iowa test's questions assess standards implemented within the past several years, Dr. Roberson said.

State Rep. Robert S. "Skipper" Perry, Jr., R-Aiken, said a test that compares Aiken County pupils to pupils across the United States is beneficial.

"We need to make sure we can compete across the country, not just across the street," Mr.. Perry said.

Some parents say pupils spend too much time taking tests instead of learning.

LaJune Jenkins, an Aiken County parent with children in the eighth and 10th grades, said she thinks schools place too much emphasis on testing and the knowledge tested does not apply outside the classroom.

District 5 School Board member Tom M. Goforth acknowledged that many people have a concern with the amount of testing.

"I think we're testing possibly too much," he said.

Dr. Roberson said the concerns are legitimate.

"We do need to be thinking about a reduction plan to reduce the amount of testing, because it can distract from quality instruction," he said. "There has to be a balance, and we need to engage teachers in the conversation to establish where that balance is."

Ms. Jenkins said the tests validate that an achievement gap exists between pupils from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Dr. Roberson said the Iowa test is important because it will allow the district to better tailor classroom instruction for all pupils, which would also narrow the achievement gap.

Sheila Gallagher, the president of the South Carolina Education Association, said test results can be used to enhance teaching and learning.

Reach Nathan Dickinson at (803) 648-1395, ext. 109 or nathan.dickinson@augustachronicle.com.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS


Sample math problem-solving and data-interpretation questions for kindergarten through eighth grades on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

A line on a graph depicts Maria's allowance from ages 5 to 18. The vertical axis on the left side of the graph contains Maria's money per month, from $0 to $20. The horizontal axis underneath the graph contains her age in years, up to age 18.


- How much did Maria receive for her allowance when she was 10?


A) $5 B) $6 C) $6.50 D) $7


- How old was Maria the last time her allowance was not increased?


J) 17 K) 15 L) 10 M) 6


- What was the largest increase in dollars in Maria's allowance?


A) $1 B) $2 C) $3 D) $4


- Which statement best describes Maria's allowance from ages 5 to 18?


J) Maria's allowance held fairly constant until she was 12 and then increased steadily.


K) Maria's allowance increased gradually throughout this period.


L) Maria's allowance increased until she was 10 and then held fairly constant.


M) Maria's allowance decreased until she was 10 and then increased rapidly.

Sources: Scoring High on the ITBS by McGraw-Hill; MathWorkBook.com; Houghton Mifflin Co.