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Tests are a faulty tool

ast County educators are wondering how the debacle over online testing of students will affect those ever-so-scrutinized school test scores this year.

Because of a dispute between the Oregon Department of Education and the contractor that conducts the state's online standardized tests, students must use paper and pencil for state assessment tests for the rest of the school year.

For the past several years, Oregon students have taken the tests by computer. Some educators think that reverting to paper could affect test scores negatively, which means schools actually could see their overall scores decline simply because the testing method has changed.

We're not so sure whether scores will drop or increase. But if the method of taking the test does have an effect on scores, it will only serve to point out the folly of relying too heavily on standardized tests to judge a school's performance.

What should matter most is how much learning - in the broadest context of that word - occurs in a classroom. Standardized tests - the results of which are influenced by demographics, culture and even such things as disputes between bureaucrats and testing companies - are but one imperfect measure of educational progress.