By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
I doubt I am the only one, but I?ve always had a certain degree of difficulty with standardized tests. No, I don?t mean taking them, rather interpreting the results as equivalent of student progress.
First of all, not all students can take tests well. One of my daughters was an honor roll student through school but always had difficulty on tests. Her homework grades were excellent but test scores always kept her from a 4-point.
Secondly, the success of a student on a test often matches his/her attitude regarding the test. When it comes to standardized tests, which students know have no impact on their grades, the attitude can range as wide as the scores.
That being said, I have difficulty with measuring the proficiency of a school?s instruction by results on standardized tests. Is it really fair to base a whole year?s progress by a test given for a few days during the school year?
Of course not, but I cannot come up with a better way of measuring the quality of a school district?s educational programming.
Decades ago, Iowa always led the nation in ACT scores. However, Iowa has undergone many changes over the last 40 years and now ranks second to Minnesota. I am convinced that when Iowa led the nation in ACT results it was because of the make-up of its population. I am not pointing fingers, but face it, Iowa no longer is the lilly-white state it formerly was. Iowa has undergone diversification, we have 6-percent unemployment and there are many more students today from lower socio-economic backgrounds than there were 40 years ago.
Recently, the News printed a list of school districts on the ?list? or school districts in need of assistance. If you looked at that list, there were some common denominators. Nearly all the districts were either 3A or 4A schools. Many of the school districts were from Iowa?s few urban centers. That means the districts were the ones that had a lot of students with low socio-economic backgrounds and diversification. Again, I don?t mean to single out any groups but facts do not lie.
So, while I do not like a whole year of study based on one week of testing, I do not have a better solution. It reminds me of several years ago when the state attempted to reward teachers with merit pay. The plan was short-lived because no one could agree on the criteria for the reward.
One week remains before the first high-school football games and just two weeks until Iowa opens its 2012 season. Wow, the summer flew by. They said that as you advance in age, the years pass even more quickly. I think I am a believer in that theory.
I am looking forward to the Iowa season, largely because of what didn?t happen last year. Expectations were not met and with the exception of the bowl win over Missouri, the 2010 campaign left a bitter taste.
Expectations have changed this year and Iowa generally is at its best when the hoopla is at the lowest. Yes, there were a lot of graduation losses, especially on defense but how well did that defense perform in 2010? It underachieved.
Scanning the list of returnees, it is safe to assume that Iowa at least to begin the season will be better on the offensive side of the ball. Iowa has the makings of one of its best offensive lines ever and those who follow the program much closer than I do, say that it also could be one of the deepest areas on the team. That should make quarterback James Vandenberg?s and runnningback Marcus Coker?s jobs easier.
One of the linemen I will be watching is offensive tackle Riley Reiff. Reiff is the first player from my hometown ever to receive a Division I scholarship in any sport. In a different life, his dad, Tom, who was a high school wrestling coach for years was a partying buddy of mine.
I am not into making predictions but it would not surprise me if Iowa matched or exceeded last year?s 8-5 record. Go Hawks!