February 04, 2000
An ethical question faces every school district at test time. Do you try to test every student or do you exclude large numbers of low-achieving students and students who aren’t yet fluent in English.
In the Long Beach Unified School District, the commitment from the top down--from Superintendent Carl Cohn to every school principal and classroom teacher here in California’s third largest school system--is to test every student.
"We are fortunate to have so many of our schools testing 100 percent of the students enrolled," said Cohn. "Some other school districts--both urban and suburban--have encouraged thousands of parents to request that their children be exempted from state testing. It is remarkable that in our district with an enrollment of 92,000, the parents of only 11 students asked that their children not be tested.
"Our teachers and principals work very hard to encourage all students to be present on test days," he said. "We also give make up tests to try to include any who were absent.
"The achievement of all students is important to us. No student should be left behind. Unless we know how a student and his or her school are doing, we can’t improve that student’s learning opportunities and achievement.
"It’s crucial to test all students to get a fair and accurate picture of how their schools are doing. School districts that systematically test only 70 or 80 percent of their students are not doing anyone any favors, especially the children who are struggling to learn. Ignoring deficiencies in education will never solve the problem and only gives a false sense of achievement.
"It’s encouraging that approximately two-thirds of our schools tested 100 percent--every student enrolled. Most of the rest tested 97, 98 or 99 percent of their enrollment. In any school district, this is a major achievement. I know of no major school district in the state with a better record."