Debra J. Saunders

Another plus: There's no reward for wrong answers, as subjective tests have been known to do. Consider the infamous 1994 California Learning Assessment math test that directed graders to award a higher score to students who gave the wrong answer to a math problem, but wrote a peppy essay, and a lower score to students who calculated the right answer, but without a full explanation.

(A California educrat defended the bad scoring with the same sort of language you hear in support of "multiple measures assessment" when she explained, "I validate 'different' solutions that are mathematically appropriate because I want my students to become more powerful problem-solvers and to be willing to risk exploring ideas in non-traditional ways." Feel the rigor?)

The NEA's argument no doubt appeals to parents who think that today's students are subjected to too many multiple-choice tests.

I am all for states consolidating tests so that they can reduce the time students spend filling in bubbles with their No. 2 pencils. But parents should be aware that NCLB does not constitute the array of tests students take in public schools, but mandates one math and one reading test, chosen by each state, for third-graders through eighth-graders to take each year.

I can't think of a better cause. As U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and chair of the House Education and Labor Committee wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle: "Five years in, we are beginning to see how the law is making a difference. For starters, it has shown us which children are getting left behind. Before the law, we didn't have the information necessary to identify where the students were who needed the most help."

Portfolios -- essays, reports and artwork -- play a vital role in the classroom.

But portfolios have no place in a nationwide assessment that focuses on whether children are learning basic skills.

When the NEA argues that schools "need to help students become well-rounded individuals," that's like giving a pass to seemingly happy kids who aren't learning what they need to know.

When educrats promise a "richer accountability system," children are less likely to be richer in academics. They argue that they want to promote critical thinking, but without steeping children in the content needed to thrive in the information age.

Their ideal assessment is the equivalent of a meal that starts and ends with dessert. It's all sugar, no protein.

Debra J. Saunders

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