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For a model on student testing, look to Finland

To the editor: The controversy over standardized testing is not whether it is necessary; it's over what to do with the results. ("No Child Left Behind test requirements deserve support from both parties," Op-Ed, Feb. 3)

Finland, which is known for the quality of its schools, serves as a model for the U.S.

Each year in Finland, a sample of about 100 schools is selected for standardized testing. The results are used strictly for diagnostic purposes and are never made public. This is the opposite of what takes place here, where naming and shaming prevail.

Test results are supposed to provide feedback to teachers about their instruction. But instead, they are increasingly used for punitive purposes in the guise of accountability. This has demoralized teachers and alienated students.

Walt Gardner, Los Angeles

Gardner is the author of Education Week's Reality Check blog.

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To the editor: The authors of this piece are sort of preaching to the choir. Anyone who argues against accountability in anything wastes everyone's time. The George W. Bush policy of No Child Left Behind has some very good aspects. The problem is, it leaves out perhaps the most important factor in the whole formula.

The policy concentrates on only three factors: the child, the teacher and the administration. It leaves out the crucial fourth factor: the parents. If the parents are not on board with the program and not continuously demanding good performance, the program is worthless.

In my childhood household, my dad would accept nothing less than a C. In his mind, that meant we were average and at least trying. My parents helped put three kids through college. It took a lot of their time, but there was a big payoff.

Tom Reinberger, Glendora

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