R. Sabine: Competence examination for students

High school graduation and its diploma should require passing a competence examination. That should motivate students and teachers and produce graduates who are literate, numerate and employable.

That would be challenging for students and educators, but why would we want less for our children?

Unfortunately, it is the nature of public education that a competence examination has certainly already been considered and, equally certain, to have been rejected, but why?

In May of this year, and in their junior year, 60 percent of Lewiston’s class of 2014 failed to score proficient or better when they took their SAT. For those who would prefer to deny or dismiss the SAT results, we also know that nearly 50 percent of the high school graduates from the class of 2012, after enrolling at the community college and based upon placement testing, had to take a remedial course.

Summer school will, of course, be necessary for those unable to pass the competence examination. That would include more than half of Lewiston’s class of 2014 and many members from the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017.

This is where common sense must step forward. Wouldn’t it make better sense for high school students to take a competence examination, or the placement test, while they are in high school, where their shortcomings can be corrected, instead of waiting until they enter community college and have to pay for non-credit remedial courses?

Otherwise, we can only pray for the community college to terminate placement testing.

Richard Sabine, Lewiston

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ERNEST LABBE's picture

SAT's are useless

SAT's are useless, wait until I explain before you take my head off. At class day in 1963 at Oxford Hills high School I recieved the Maine teachers award in math based on my SAT score in math. To say advanced math was my best subject in high school would be a joke. I struggled to average a D grade for the four years of hig school math. So how did this happen? Because I test well and can pick the best answer from four possible answers. There were a lot of much smarter kids than I that scored far below me. Why because some people do not do well in standard type tests.

I will not even try to come up with a solution to the testing problem. By my own admission I am not smart enough to come up with an answer.

 's picture

I received "The Harvard Book

I received "The Harvard Book Award" based on my SAT scores and a presumed love of books. For crying out loud, I was 17. The books I loved were known as one-handed literature. The award got me an automatic jump to near the head of the line for applications. Harvard wisely suggested I look elsewhere.


Maybe instead of a competency

Maybe instead of a competency test or any other standardized test we should let the teachers teach. Let the students learn. And get the government to actually fund education in the way that Maine people voted for. You cannot compare Lewiston SAT results to other schools that do not have the diverse population. You need to take ALL aspects into consideration and standardized tests have always been unfair...at one point it was unfair to girls, now it is also unfair to the ELL students. There was a time when the SAT was only for those planning on going into college, now it is required for all, even those that have no interest in furthering their education.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

A senior who cannot pass a

A senior who cannot pass a competency test perhaps needs more schooling. A senior, by definition, is preparing to exit school, so the teachers should have already taught The cry of "let the teachers teach" really has no relevancy for the senior.

I support exit exams to measure competency. If the student fails, they cannot graduate.

Don't believe the hogwash from those who are afraid to test. Perhaps they fear learning the truth about our students.


This has nothing to do with

This has nothing to do with listening to any "hogwash". My opinion is based on real life experience. I have a brother who could not pass a written test for the life of him, however, if you asked him the questions verbally he could answer them all. I have a son who suffers from testing anxiety and struggles to pass exams of any kind....yet he can tell you exactly what the answer is when he is asked. Not every person tests well and tests should not be the ONLY way to measure their competency.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Rather than argue for no

Rather than argue for no testing, why not argue for an oral exam for the few who cannot master a written test.

By the way, when those people get into the real world, no one will give them special treatment. Fear of test taking can be overcome. If not, why make special considerations?


I am so glad you think it is

I am so glad you think it is that easy to overcome a fear of test taking. Kids today have had so much pressure put on them at a young age to do well on these tests that it isn't funny. Arguing for an oral exam will open up just as large a can of worms as arguing for no standardized testing. And it is funny that you should mention special treatment....do you even have a clue as to what it takes to get basic accommodations in today's public school system for necessary things? The schools have no funds to pay for the special accommodations needed by some and they are constantly having to pick and choose what they can provide so the parents are jumping hurdles having to prove why their child needs these things. But then again, when I think of who made the comment it all makes sense...you always think you have all the answers without being in the reality of the situation. I would love you to walk a mile in the shoes of some of the people I know....you wouldn't last the day.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Let's look at reality - you

Let's look at reality - you have no clue what shoes I wore to get to where I am in life. The human body is amazingly resilient. Perhaps that is why we say: “What does not kill you, makes you stronger. “

All that I have to do is look at South East Asian cultures, and I see that kids in some cultures are under far more academic stress than U.S. kids. Kids are not dropping like flies, and they knock the socks off the average U.S. kid when it comes to testing and college admissions.

Moreover, I look at kids in those cultures that are in the bottom 25% percentile of academic performance and many of them score better than U.S. kids in the bottom 25%.

Stress is part of life. Shielding our kids from stress only creates adults that cannot manage stress.
Perhaps our kids should be walking a mile in no shoes, so they don’t grow up to be a bunch of softies and graduates of the victim class.

After all, we are competing in a global employment market, so the U.S. is doom to lose out against countries willing to walk the extra mile in no shoes metaphorically speaking.

 's picture

Stress is like competition.

If you remove competition (personal or team achievement) from school (scholastics or sports) and give everyone a participation award, the graduates can't compete in the real, stressful world.

 's picture

Well said, Mr. Sabine,

Well said.


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