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Tests scores don't matter to students' grades, so of course they haven't improved enough

Tests scores don't matter to students' grades, so of course they haven't improved enough
Students work in a group at Downtown Magnets High School in Los Angeles in 2016. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The Times Editorial Board asks about California’s standardized test results, “What’s with that abysmal showing by 11th-graders?”

I have taught 11th grade English for 13 years, and I have been the primary state test administrator at my school. The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress results are not a true representation of 11th-graders’ abilities or skills.

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These tests are essentially compulsory, and 11th-grade students must take four hours of online testing in English and another four hours of testing in math. When presented with eight hours of intense examination, 11th graders ask, “Does this affect my semester grade or college admissions?”

The answer being no, most students don’t do their best work. In contrast, many high school students are motivated to give their very best efforts on SAT and ACT tests.

David Waldowski, Laguna Woods

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To the editor: The Times asks the right question: Are schools using funding the right way to help disadvantaged students? Research gives us a clear direction.

Reading achievement is strongly related to how much pleasure-reading students do, which in turn is strongly related to access to books, which in turn is related to school and public library quality. For students living in poverty, libraries often provide their only access to books.

School libraries in California have improved in the last decade, with increased numbers of books per student, but there is one area they need help. Research shows that presence of credentialed school librarians makes a strong contribution to improving reading achievement. Only 9% of California school libraries have credentialed librarians, compared with the national average of 66%.

Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles

The writer is a professor emeritus of education at USC.

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To the editor: Your editorial about the “problems” with our education system that lead to flat or diminishing test scores makes a few assumptions that are not true.

For one thing, not all high school students want or need to go to college. Many go straight into the workforce or the military. They have no need or motivation to score well on the standardized tests, and their scores are counted in the percentages.

Perhaps more significant is the assumption that the tests results are an accurate reflections of students’ ability to handle college or a good job. The goal of the teachers at my school is to prepare the students for college academics, not to score well on the arbitrary standardized tests.

The tests do not impact grades. I’ve seen students pass Advanced Placement exams but score poorly on the state standardized tests.

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Kenneth Jaffe, Los Angeles

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook

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