Readers respond: What low test scores look like

Much has been written about Oregon’s low test scores recently, (“Oregon school performance craters relative to national averages, elementary and middle school math scores rank 6th worst in U.S.,” Oct. 24). As a 20-year middle school educator, I wanted to provide some examples of what that really means for our students.

About 50% of my eighth-grade students start the year reading at the fifth-grade level. This means that any informational reading we do in class takes a lot of time and discussion. It is common for a three- to five- page chapter or article to take up an entire class period. This means that there is no way to cover all topics in as much detail as state mandates require. It also means that students will have difficulty reading a job application, college application or scholarship application, all of which are needed to be successful.

When writing, students in eighth grade still routinely use “i” instead of “I” and have difficulty putting basic punctuation, such as periods and question marks, into the correct places. With math, students cannot add, subtract, multiply and divide the numbers from one to 10 rapidly (or at all) in their heads. This makes it difficult to calculate an average, measure a distance or determine a percentage and quickly make sure that you at least are in the right ballpark.

Students regularly write percentages as “%65″ instead of “65%.” Students have difficulty looking at two distances (or two times) and determining which one is shorter or faster. This is what I see and teach every year in eighth grade. This is what it means when we have “low test scores.”

Angela Dickey, Portland

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