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Advertising the Truth

After a two-month delay, California parents, educators, and newspapers finally got the results of last spring's STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting). Probably no group was more deeply affected than the parents of the youngest students tested, the second graders.

My own daughter, Sarah Jane, heretofore a winsome if silly denizen of my household, was suddenly redefined as "Child #008458743." Her school, a Chinese Language Immersion School, became School #6113245.

Sarah Jane's permanent record now shows where she stands, on a percentile basis, among American children on particular subskills of language and mathematics. A more educationally worthless and civically damaging conception of children like Sarah Jane cannot be imagined.

STAR features Harcourt-Brace's Stanford 9 test, administered this year to over 4.5 million California public school students in grades two through 11. According to one member of the State Board of Education, the test "will keep school officials and teachers focused on our tough standards. If a school is going to be judged, in part, on its test scores, teachers must focus on what is on the test."

A big problem is that the Harcourt-Brace company has no legitimate authority to set "our" standards and drive the curriculum for California's public schools. Test-writers are not educators; norms on the test questions they produce are merely averages, setting no proper expectations about what a student should know or be able to do.

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