Standardized Testing Reform
In recent years, America’s obsession with standardized testing has substantially increased, giving rise to a “testing culture” beginning to surround the nation. Since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2002, standardized testing has been a policy mandated in all 50 states. As a result, students are being bombarded with an incredible amount of exams — in some cases over 40 — throughout their schooling years. Many unwanted consequences have appeared as byproducts of this increased emphasis on testing. The nation’s current testing situation has provoked many complications, such as curriculum changes that “teach to the test”, unfair advantages due to socioeconomic status, and even an increase in cheating by teachers, that have brought forth a necessity of reform within the system.
Since its initiation several years ago, the current standardized testing system has instigated unproductive practices in the classroom, calling its validity into question. “The obsession with raising student standardized test scores is leading to a one-size-fits-all curriculum that ignores the needs of individual students” (Strauss, 2015). Teachers, instead of focusing on imparting the skills and knowledge associated with certain material to students, prioritize teaching only the information that will result in better test scores for their students. Instead of learning about real-world applications, skills, and their values, our nation’s students are being “taught to the test” and led to value the rote memorization that will serve little benefit to them in the future. Some argue that “teaching to the test” may not be completely detrimental because it ensures that students are taught the essentials.
In the end, standardized tests do provide opportunities for the progress of education in the nation to be quantitatively measured. However, while they may be beneficial to a limited extent, these never-ending exams are currently being emphasized so drastically that they are detracting from their original purpose. The stakes are being raised so high that teachers are starting to abandon creativity and innovation in favor of preparing their students for tests (Strauss, 2015). Moreover, there has been an increasing number of cases in which teachers have even resorted to cheating to ensure that their kids pass the exams (Schwarz, 2011). The performance of students on exams of arguably questionable validity has distracted us from the true objective of public education: to provide our youth with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in the real world.
When the stigma caused by the increasing focus of testing in the nation results in decreases in curriculum quality and even a lack of integrity among teachers, it is evident that the system needs reform. Over time, monopolies have developed in the testing industry across the nation, and they have unfortunately induced an inequity to exist in the system, providing an unfair advantage to certain students and schools based on socioeconomic status. “Standardized tests are based on specific knowledge contained in specific sets of books: the textbooks created by the test makers.” In other words, the same corporations that publish and score the nation’s tests publish their own preparation books. Pearson, one of the most well-known of these corporations, has even published tests with passages taken unaltered from their preparation textbooks (Broussard, 2014).
But where does the injustice lie? If all students had equal access to these preparation books, perhaps these test-making practices would not be controversial, but this is definitely not the case. Some schools simply do not have the means of purchasing these preparation materials and providing them to all students due to a lack of funding. As a result, this effectively leaves students and schools not able to afford these study materials at a loss. Why should the amount of money in a family’s wallet or a school’s budget be allowed to determine how students perform on tests that will affect lives of students and teachers alike? The answer is simple — it should not. In response, some argue that the creation of preparation books by these companies provides for consistency in both the content and form of the tests, and that the government is responsible for ensuring that schools have enough funding to purchase these resources. These practice materials make it possible for students to know what to expect and how to handle their myriad of exams beforehand.
They claim that the testing system itself is not at fault for the government’s failure to provide certain public schools with adequate funding. However, the use of practice materials published by test-makers only adds to the “teaching to the test” phenomenon. Students focus on memorizing information, often times solely from preparation books, to pass a test instead of appropriately learning the material. Additionally, relatively low standardized test scores evident across the nation in recent years are partially attributable to different schools districts throughout the nation receiving substantially disparate funding (Evans, 2013). While the problems associated with socioeconomic disparities may be due to imperfect government budgeting policy, they are still issues related to our standardized testing system that need to be addressed.
Only until the performance of our students is not indirectly measured by their socioeconomic status will our testing system have the appropriate and necessary equity. Numerous faults in America’s current standardized testing system have indicated that is time for a cleansing reform. The country is in need of a revolution in its testing policy to overcome the problems it currently faces in educating its youth. There has been a recent trend for our nation to fall behind others when it comes to education, and it will only continue if action is not taken. If America desires to achieve its once previously held excellence in the field of education, it drastically is in need of reform of the system with which it measures its own progress.
References Broussard, M. (2014, July 15). Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing. The Atlantic. Retrieved May 7, 2015, from http://www.
theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/07/why-poor-schools-cant-win-at-standardized-testing/374287/ Evans, J. (2013, November 4). Problems With Standardized Testing. Education.com.
Retrieved May 9, 2015, from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Test_Problems_Seven/ Schwarz, A. (2011, August 7). Atlanta School Year Begins Amid a Testing Scandal.
New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/08/us/08atlanta.html Strauss, V. (2014, April 22).
11 problems created by the standardized testing obsession. Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/04/22/11-problems-created-by-the-standardized-testing-obsession/