Standardized Testing: It's Time to Smell the Coffee

Standardized Testing, as you know, is a technique used in schools across America to measure student growth and whether teachers and schools are educating their students the way that society considers to be correct. State mandated pre-tests, state exams, and state mandated post-tests are just a few examples of the standardized testing.

Standardized testing has proven to be unsuccessful time and again, yet the technique is still used frequently. Standardized tests are very stressful and very time consuming. In fact, an unhealthy amount of stress has been put on students and educators in the recent years. While researching this subject, I found that almost all of my sources had a statement showing that teachers are being forced to “teach to the test”. The teachers don’t want to teach us the same basic things every year, but if they don’t, students will be unsuccessful in the exams, leading to major consequences.

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One teacher wrote “The school and all of its teachers and administrators are graded by New York State. Our test results for ELA, math, and science determine much of our success as a school.” Some schools across America have failed to meet the standards, resulting in students being held back, teachers and administrators losing their jobs, and schools being shut down. Studies have shown that excessive amounts of testing have led to students losing their creativity and their ability to “think outside the box.” One of my relatives scored a very high two on the New York State ELA exam last year.

She is a solid student- she never failed a test. But because of this one grade, she was unable to join her school’s choir because she is getting extra help that she doesn’t need. It is a proven fact that students who are actively involved in music programs do better in school than students who don’t participate in music. Why is she being taken away from learning to review something that she clearly understands? Standardized tests have a long history of errors and misconceptions, as well. Although the large companies that write the tests, such as Pearson Education, try to keep the test from being biased, they are almost always unsuccessful. One of the biggest errors that has occurred in the world of standardized testing was in April, 2012 on the New York State eighth grade English Language arts exam.

Students were baffled by the multiple choice questions that went with the article “The Hare and the Pineapple”, by Daniel Pinkwater. New York State included this article and the multiple choice questions in the annual exam, even though students in Illinois, Arkansas, Delaware, and Alabama were baffled by the same questions that were on earlier exams. Deborah Meirer, the founder of the New York City Progressive Central Park East Schools said “Even the most intelligent students can often over think an answer and get it incorrect.” Standardized tests are considered to be unreliable because an individual’s score will change on a day to day basis. Some factors that can affect the changing score include the testing conditions and the test taker’s mental, emotional, or physical state. Billions of dollars have been put into standardized testing.

Most people would ask where this money comes from. The answer is clearly written all over America’s schools. The money comes from the salaries of teachers who’ve been laid off, cuts in extracurricular activities such as athletics or music, cuts in basic life skills, such as cursive writing, and cuts in other areas of schools, such as transportation. There is no single solution to Standardized Testing. In order for some students to learn properly, the solution is less testing and a more focused, personalized curriculum. To others, the standardized testing should stop altogether and the student’s educators should be the only ones writing and administering the exams.

This is especially true with students who may be enrolled in the special education curriculum. Forcing the students enrolled in special education to take the same test as any other student not only takes away from their learning, but can be detrimental to their self esteem as well. I personally feel that as a country, we need to rethink these exams and decrease the number of exams for the students. “If we look at other countries whose education systems are revered and successful, we will observe that they are moving away from standardized testing” a high school English teacher from an Upstate New York said. A student from a Middle School, also in Upstate New York wrote “Yes, we do need some (exams), but tests for art, P.E.

, etc. are unnecessary.” The solution is in the future… it’s up to us to change the perception of how children learn and the best way to assess the skills needed to be successful. It could be me, you, one of our peers… and we will find out who it is on the day when children don’t have to take ridiculous standardized tests anymore. Schools should be teaching students so each individual can reach their highest potential.

When trees aren’t chopped down to create the documents that each and every one of us hates. When educators can teach freely. When schools don’t feel the government’s pressure. When America gets a grip and sees what is truly important for our education system. When the billions of dollars that taxpayers shell out annually stop being wasted on standardized testing.

When the school day isn’t wasted on practice exams and educators can get back to showing students how much fun learning can be. This is the future…or so I would like to think. Unless we can do something about this to make a change- whether we make up a petition, or give the White House a phone call, our children and their children will be taking standardized tests just as we are today. So let’s make it happen! Let’s get out there, and make sure that the citizens of the United States of America know the untold story of our schools and why they’re frequently failing! The day when children in kindergarten don’t have to complete pre-tests and post-tests will be the day that we’ve been longing to see. It will be the day when our elected officials will wake up and smell the coffee. The future of standardized testing is truly up to us.

Now please, ask yourself- do you want students 25 years from now to have to take all of these exams? Do you truly feel you are getting a better education with so much focus on these tests? What do the educators have to say? The following quotes come from educators across Upstate New York: “It’s a concern when we try to fit all students in the same category; perhaps that is not the goal, but that is what it seems is happening.” “Kids need the freedom to take risks when learning new and interesting material and understand that it, along with the skills needed to gain knowledge, are vital for lifelong success.” “I keep hoping the administration and the State of New York will come to their senses.” “Testing only adds value if we do not use it to judge, but to create better programs and to address the needs of individual students. Too much testing creates complacency among some students and they stop giving their best efforts.

Students deserve more time actively engaged in awesome lessons. Testing takes time away from that.” “Student stress affects us (teachers)… also too much (testing) makes kids not care.” What do the test takers have to say? Students from one NY middle school wrote the following about the standardized tests: “I really don’t like testing. It makes me feel like the government is simply trying to prove that they still have control over our country, and it wastes a ton of trees (lots of paper).” “I hate how teachers have to teach to the test.

Instead of learning about other stuff, we have to learn about what’s on the test and I don’t really think that’s fair.” “I HATE IT!!!” “I feel that pre and post tests are dumb.” “It causes bullying because of grades.”