Schools Putting Too Much Emphasis on Tests?

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Last April had students and teachers sweating in preparation for the annual "Commonwealth Accountability Testing System." or "CATS" test. Today, the scores were released, with 72 percent of Kentucky schools scoring "proficient" and "distinguished" ratings.

But are schools putting too much emphasis on tests in the classroom?

Teresa Stivers is a 32 year retired Warren County teacher, and now a full time grandmother.

But just eight years ago, she saw the pressure of CATS tests on young students.

"We had to work really hard to keep the children from being upset because they'd get really nervous about it," Stivers said.

"I think they can sense it from their teachers and the administration that this is very, very important," she added.

And it's particularly important to Potter Gray Elementary.

"We've done well in the past. We've been consistent, but this is the first time we've hit all our scores above 100," admitted Janita Cole, a Potter Gray teacher.

In fact, their score was a 113, the highest score in the Bowling Green Independent School District.

But Cole says that Potter Gray teachers aren't only focusing on test preparation.

"Just because it's something that's tested, doesn't mean that's all that we do," Cole added.

Across town, scores for Dishman-McGinnis Elementary are at 73. But Principal Michael Wix says it's a step in the right direction, and classes will continue to focus on core content rather than the CATS test.

"As far as spending a whole lot of time talking about the tests, you won't hear a whole lot about the tests in our classrooms on a daily basis," Wix explained.

But officials at both schools say Kentucky has set a goal for every school to reach a 100 score on CATS by 2014.

It's high pressure, but Teresa Stivers says from her experience, the local school system will balance classroom work with test preparation.

"I don't think anyone is teaching just science this year because that's what you're tested on," Stivers said.

"I don't think Kentucky would. I would be very disappointed if they were. They weren't eight years ago," she continued.

Both teachers interviewed say they do feel the CATS test is useful for teachers and students because it shows how well the core content is being taught.

Detailed information about individual school and district scores is available online at Go to the Testing and Reporting link on that page, then to the CATS Briefing Packets link.

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