In a Sun Journal article Dec. 4, “Lewiston Chief: Last year’s test scores ‘worthless,'” local educators belabored last year’s Smarter Balanced test. If the article went no further it would be difficult to find fault. But there are three included items of significance to parents.

The first is that when parents found out they had the right to opt out of testing, the numbers opting out “… grew to 394 out of 5,200 students.”

The second is the reported remark from a Lewiston parent, “Teachers know there’s too much testing and scores don’t reflect what children can do.”

The third and most significant included item is that “In 2013-14 in Lewiston, 50 percent of students were proficient (or at grade level) in math.”

Testing, like stopping to ask for directions, is necessary to confirm that children are where they should be and are progressing in the right direction. Educators, similar to some motorists, may not want to pause, may prefer to believe that if left unchallenged, they will ultimately arrive at their desired destination; they don’t want to lose time nor credibility by pausing.

Admittedly, testing is an interruption, but a necessary interruption to avoid getting lost. Yes, mandatory standardized tests may be flawed and a test’s effectiveness may have to be challenged by comparison with other tests, as the Sun Journal article reported, but tests continue to be necessary. Without it, people wouldn’t know that in school-year 2013-14, 50 percent of Lewiston’s students were proficient in math and, notably not mentioned in the article, know that 50 percent were not.


Opting out of testing, like avoiding bathroom scales, may avoid disappointment, but doesn’t prevent failure.

A parent who values their child and their child’s education has to know how their child is progressing. A conscientious school would include class test scores within the school’s web pages. What possible reason could they put forward for not doing so?

Are children doing better than tests indicate, and by what metric is that proven?

According to Maine’s Department of Education website, 11th-grade testing in Auburn and Lewiston schools reveals that less than 45 percent were proficient in any academic discipline in any of the nine years of SAT testing.

In simple mathematics, and in plain language, that means that for nine years more than half of the 11th-grade students approached their graduation functionally illiterate and enumerate. That failure has lifelong consequences; at CMCC, roughly half of all the class of 2012 (enrolled high school graduates) took one or more remedial courses.

Educating children is difficult. The public should be sympathetic but shouldn’t accept failure.

Educators should be successful or step forward and admit they can’t be. At the least, they should acknowledge the failure. Admitting the problem is half the battle.

Richard Sabine, Lewiston

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