One of the most persistent complaints about the push for academic standards in American education is that students are tested too much — to the point that it hinders learning.
The problem may not be as awful as some teachers and parents claim. Testing is, after all, the tried and true means of determining whether students have mastered the material that's being taught. And much of the complaining comes from defenders of a public- school system that had faltered academically in favor an emphasis on seat time and self-esteem.
But not all the complaints should be written off. If tests are redundant or defective, they ought to be questioned and either fixed or discarded.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne says that's what he has in mind in recommending the state Board of Education scrap the Stanford 9 test. He says the AIMS test, with some Stanford 9 questions included, is all we should need to ensure Arizona's youngsters are on track academically.
But we share the skepticism of some educators and state board members. First, AIMS is a different kind of test, with different intent and scoring methods, than Stanford 9. AIMS is intended to measure a student's mastery of basic subject matter. Indeed, high school seniors will be expected to pass the test to graduate.
Stanford 9, on the other hand, contains a broad spectrum of questions ranging from easy to hard. Even students who've mastered AIMS will have trouble with some Stanford 9 questions, but their score gives them and their parents a better idea of how they compare with their peers locally and nationally. That's important, especially for college-bound students.
The state Board of Education should keep AIMS and Stanford 9, consider moving the latter to the fall, and explore whether some school districts are wasting time and resources on tests that are redundant or defective. Some guidance in that area could help local school boards address the complaint of over-testing.
But no test should be scrapped merely to silence groundless complaints.