Emily Aiken ’20, Editor-in-Chief
Without a doubt, standardized testing is a part of the dynamics of the American school system, with the average American student taking 112 standardized tests between pre-k and 12th grade. Students put ample amounts of time, energy, and even money to prepare for these daunting exams. Their purpose may seem simple: they are designed to allow for comparisons among schools and colleges in terms of academic achievement and teachers’ effectiveness. But a consensus has arised that the major emphasis put on these tests has caused passing students to be labeled as failing, effective teachers labeled as ineffective, and adequate schools to be labeled as inadequate.
When you mention standardized tests, most students immediately think of stress. It is just another thing that teenagers have to worry about—and it is costing them. “During junior year, I constantly felt stressed because of the upcoming tests… I always felt that I wasn’t prepared for the SAT,” senior Jessica Milarch said. Students now feel obligated to pay money for special classes, prep books, and tutoring. According to Ken Robinson, author of Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education, “In 2013 [the testing and educational support industry] had combined revenues in the United States alone of $16.5 billion. To put that into context, the entire U.S. domestic cinema box office gross in 2013 was a little less that $11 billion and the National Football League is currently a $9 billion business.” Clearly our priorities have changed. Once preparing students for their futures, we are now mostly focused on the money that these tests can garner. We have commercialized education, making money from the stress we are putting on students and teachers.
Some states even spend over a billion dollars a year on testing while many of their schools are in dire need of basic resources. Things like new books, technology, school psychiatrists are all being pushed aside for more testing. Maybe, if we spent the money on these much needed resources, schools would be a more comfortable environment as a whole, and this could lead itself to higher test scores.
High stake standardized testing has become a major debate when it comes to school reform. This all started with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) which is supposed to hold schools ‘accountable’ by supporting standards-based education. In order to receive federal education funding, states must develop tests in order to assess all students at select grade levels. With so much riding on high test scores, teachers feel obligated to ‘teach to the test’. In some schools subjects like science, the arts, and social studies are being neglected in order to prepare students for the subjects that are on the tests like language arts and math. This may result in higher test scores, but not a better in-depth understanding of the curriculum as a whole.
Not only is testing altering our priorities, it is also ineffective. The world economy does not pay you for what you know, it pays you for what you can do, and the whole point of standard-based tests are to prepare you for college. But Google knows everything. So why are we testing how well students can memorize certain facts? With just a click of a button, you can ‘Google it’. Complex thinking and problem solving are actual skills you need in the workplace and in real world situations, but are harder to assess.
As a whole, standardized tests are pushing our priorities in the wrong direction. Students are stressed, money is being spent on the less important aspects, and teachers teaching to a test instead of truly being able to reach kids.
Photo courtesy of Slide Share