As a fellow high school English teacher, I take exception to Ted Kopacki's narrow-minded letter attacking the new CAP (California Assessment Program) tests (Letters, March 17). Let's take a closer look at his objections:
Students should not be tested at the 10th-grade level because most high school sophomores "have not arrived at the level of sophistication" needed to "deal with" difficult writing domains requiring reflection.
This is simply not true. State field testing has proved students can effectively respond when given adequate instruction. Rather than saying students can't do it, we need to recognize that we are selling our students short by lowering our expectations of them. Testing at the 10th-grade level (instead of the 12th-grade level) makes more sense for another reason: If a sophomore performs poorly, we still have two years to (remedy this.) If a senior performs poorly, he graduates.
The CAP test is a "useless intrusion" into the classroom and an "absurdity."
The new CAP test is unique in that it is the first assessment from the state (and the first created by teachers) that is in line with the state teaching framework. In other words, the test is no longer a detached, unrelated task; rather it is supposed to mirror sound classroom practice. Students being taught by trained teachers should not have to "practice" for the test. I have a difficult time understanding how an assessment of what we are supposed to be doing in our classroom daily can be viewed as a "useless intrusion."
There is no incentive for the student to do well on the test.
Granted, it is not possible to motivate every student every day. But it concerns me that some teachers (even at the honors level) doubt their ability to motivate their classes to take a once-a-year assessment.
Public schools in California are at a crossroads. There is a perception in this state that schools are underachieving. As a result, the threat of a voucher initiative looms. Schools can't afford to remain stagnant and hope to stem this criticism. The public is rightfully demanding accountability, and this bold new CAP test is a much more authentic way of assessing student performance. It deserves our support.