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Making the grade on state assessments

   For years, eighth-grade scores on state assessments have been in the basement.

   The slump seems to strike just about equally, regardless of students' gender, race, geography -- or even how well they did on assessments in elementary school.

   By the time kids reach middle school, teachers say, they have figured out that doing poorly on a state test won't hurt them much. And they are too distracted thinking about other things to care much or try too hard on a state test, most educators say.

   Several local districts have decided to make the state tests more consequential for students. In some places, students who score high enough on a state test are exempt from the final exam. In other places, all students' grades on the state test is used as their final exam grade.

   In schools that have taken such steps, educators say scores have risen substantially.

   But some people say these sorts of strategies misuse the state tests, which were meant to measure school performance, not be used to determine student grades. What's more, critics say that sort of bribery does nothing to improve student learning.

   What makes sense to you?

  -- Mary Pasciak


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