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Testing of pupils faulted at forum

By MICHAEL SANDLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001


TAMPA -- Hoping to send a message to Washington, a group of residents expressed concerns to U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa, Tuesday night about the standardized testing of elementary and middle school students.

Davis invited the group to Leto High School for a town hall forum and plans to carry their opinions to the Capitol, where Congress is expected to consider President Bush's plan for education reform.

"Part of my job is to go out into the community and find out what's on your mind and tell you what's going on in Washington," Davis said to open the discussion before a group of about 60 educators, parents, students and reporters.

Before taking questions, Davis expressed his own concerns about Bush's proposal to test students in grades 3-8 each year in reading and math.

The audience seemed to agree, making it seem more like a pep rally than a debate. The crowd applauded speaker upon speaker who denounced the need for more statewide exams.

Joan Kaywell, an education professor from the University of South Florida, said testing ends up sorting and classifying students, instead of identifying those who need help. She worries that politicians make changes without consulting those closest to students.

"What I have observed is that the teacher's voice is glaringly non-existent in this conversation," she said.

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