Debra J. Saunders

Besides, Wilkins noted, the NCLB tests "should not be comprehensive and test every standard." She likened NCLB testing -- which can consume from a couple hours to a day per year per student -- to "a dipstick" that allows educators to see if kids are making adequate progress toward mastering grade-level skills, and then hopefully move on.

Will the new NCLB draft include portfolios? Miller told me that a state might be able to include portfolios for English-language learners -- if the state has no valid test for that group, and thinks it can put together a good package and if the U.S. secretary of education approves. If the House education committee limits portfolios to that narrow area, so be it.

But on a larger scale, forget it. Teachers, parents and students already complain that there are too many tests. So the answer is: Another test? I don't think so.

The time it would take for teachers to grade portfolios is prohibitive. Most important of all, subjective grading defeats the whole purpose of NCLB. Washington passed this law because schools have graduated too many students who were not performing at grade level. The remedy is not a test that would allow graders to paper over the sorry fact that children cannot read.

Debra J. Saunders

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