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Schools' pencil flap underlines problem

Local 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 who 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 could see their overall scores decline.

We're not sure whether scores will drop, increase or hold steady. But if the method of taking the test does affect 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 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.