I am a senior at Dulaney High School and write with a special note of concern toward the average testing of 8th grade children ("Debate rages over how many hours Maryland students should be tested each year," Nov. 15).

Personally, I have never had a real problem with tests as a student and consider them to be simply a part of education and the system. I have also been lucky to never suffer from test anxiety or any other issue related to taking tests or exams. However, reflecting upon the classes I have taken and the curricula followed by the teachers, there is some effect all of the testing in middle and elementary school has upon the quality of teaching.

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Testing the students so rigorously and obviously and with such time-consuming tests will inevitably hurt the teacher's ability to teach their subject as they would prefer. If a student is expected to know something in October that the teacher preferred to take more time to work toward, building into it in November, the student's performance will be hurt in the test. Subsequently, the teacher will be encouraged to move their schedule back to teach the skill in October and the entire plan the teacher had put together must be restructured.

And what of the teacher's expertise? This might have been a person who has been teaching for 20 years and has found over the course of his career that the students grasped the idea better if it was taught in November than if they were rushed into it in October. But that is not what the county or state expects. Thus, the students will either fail that portion of the tests or 20 years of experience will be disregarded.

Such choices demonstrate how testing too often results not in a better teaching of the subject but in teaching toward the test. The students do not necessarily grasp the subject area nor do they even pick up the skill of learning and studying or how to synthesize an answer. What they pick up is how to choose carefully from a list of "distractor" answers. Testing in this fashion becomes the bane of creative thinking.

Perhaps a simple solution to this entire problem is to have the teaching evaluated on a personal basis and the students more closely observed in class. The teachers could report on student progress, recommending some for tutoring perhaps, but there would not be the need for a test. Or students might be encouraged to help one another, especially as those who understand a topic most quickly are most likely twiddling their thumbs while their neighbors struggle to grasp it. Rather than seeing such help as a disruption, teachers should allot time in class for exactly that. These small changes will help teachers evaluate students and their problem solving abilities without the students having to waste hour after hour filling out test responses.

Middle school is a critical time for students to decide that they love learning and being challenged, or that they hate every second they are at school. If the teachers are given a chance to do their jobs, the former will become more and more popular. However, with incessant batteries of county and state tests, I have witnessed the latter grow every year.

Adolfo Carvalho, Cockeysville

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