@edhed:Unfair testing lowers scores

@edbod:Armed with the information that three of the Kennett Consolidated District schools are on the state warning list because of low test scores, we asked both candidates for the state House of Representatives -- Chris Ross and Mario Calvarese -- where they stood on the matter.

We were glad to hear that they both support creating a more even test-taking field for kids who don't speak English or are in special education classes (the sources of the lower scores). Rep. Ross suggested the alternative of giving the test in the students' native language for the first three years they're here and to make accommodations for special ed. Mr. Calvarese said he agreed and added that some very intelligent students who don't speak English should have the right to have their progress tested accurately.

We published the story of the Kennett PSSA score results last week because it's our responsibility to report the information that the state Department of Education distributed, not to cast blame on the district.

Since the publication of the scores, we received several letters reminding us that the low scores reflected the tests of the subgroup of Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students -- not those of the Caucasian middle and upper class. One letter went so far as to compare and contrast the scores with neighboring Unionville High School, where there is scant racial and economic diversity among the student body.

On that, we offer our observations.

First, we're tired of hearing about comparisons of Kennett and Unionville. We're fond of both schools and already know that a good education is available at both ends of Route 82.

We also know that the reason Kennett district serves an immigrant population -- mostly Mexicans who come to work in agriculture -- is that its area contains Kennett Square Borough. And the borough is virtually the only place people with menial jobs have even a slight chance of finding housing they can afford.

The outlying townships of Kennett, New Garden, East Marlborough, Newlin, West Marlborough and the rest, give lip service to their support of agriculture and farming. But they put so much land in agricultural easement and open space that acreage for residential development becomes less available, and what is left is outrageously expensive. Those who wave the banner for farming and open space somehow have a blind spot when it comes to housing those who would pick the crops or provide their services.

Therefore the workers move to Kennett Square and their Spanish-speaking kids go to Kennett.

And yet, anyone who looks at the Kennett District will see a school that handles its disadvantaged and non-English-speaking population brilliantly. There are clubs, homework helping programs, ESL curricula, tutoring and more. They send a substantial number of kids to college who only a few years back spoke only Spanish. And the student population overall grows up with an appreciation of diversity.

A district that works so hard to get these results while still providing a good education for those who choose to partake deserves a pat on the back, not the punishment of being put on a warning list risking state takeover.

We support changes in the testing process that punishes good schools like Kennett, and we applaud the job the district is doing for its students in need.

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