Standardized Testing

To the detriment of our nations children, standardized test scores have become the prime focus of our school systems. There is much debate as to whether standardized tests scores can accurately measure a child’s knowledge. Yet we are evaluating the success of our schools, deciding which schools get funding, deciding which teachers are effective, and judging our children by these test scores.

The Tests

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools adequately increase the number of students who pass the standardized tests each year. Schools that adequately improve test scores gain funding and those that do not can be shut down. These tests are intended to evaluate a child’s knowledge in math, reading, and writing.

Our world and our workforce are becoming increasingly diverse with each passing day. As a result, our educational opportunities when we reach adulthood are becoming more diverse to meet the demands of our workforce and cater to the diverse student population. It would only make sense that our primary public education system would follow suit. On the contrary, we have taken a giant leap back in time to the detriment of our students.

The students

By placing a price tag on the standardized test scores we are forcing schools to play the numbers game. Students fall into three categories when it comes to standardized testing. Students who can easily pass the tests and do not need further instruction, students who are on the borderline, and students who would need much remedial education to pass the tests.

Students on the borderline receive the most beneficial instruction, because they are seen as the students who have the most potential to raise the number of passing students. The other two groups of students are the ones most hurt by the standardized testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Our public education system has turned into a means of weeding out students based on their test scores rather than providing an education to our students that will prepare them for the future.

The teachers

As a parent, I look at my children with love and great hope for their futures. I see their individual strengths and even their weaknesses. I try to guide them through their weaknesses, but I focus on their strengths. Their strengths give them confidence. These are the things, that with proper guidance, can provide for a brighter future. Each teacher should look at their students in the same fashion.

Standardized testing places too much emphasis on the weaknesses of our children. Every day in our classrooms, teachers are forced to base their teaching on these standardized tests. Teachers do not have the time to foster their student’s strengths when the goal of the school system has become to only increase test scores. It would stand to reason that teachers may even see children who have difficulty passing the tests as a burden. Especially given the amount of pressure placed on teachers to improve the standardized test scores.

Our schools have long been in need of more qualified teachers. The teaching profession notoriously lacks financial incentives for qualified teachers. The reward of affecting a child’s life and influencing children to learn are some of the things that make teaching appealing. When we take these things away from teachers, we have to wonder how many prospective teachers will choose a different career path. How many prospective teachers will decide not to teach because they do not want to deal with the increasing pressures placed upon teachers by standardized testing requirements? Especially when teachers carry most of the blame when students do not perform?

There are several paths a child can take. It should be the purpose of our public education system to ensure that every child takes the most productive and appropriate path for them. We need to realize that a child will not necessarily be unsuccessful just because they can not pass a set of standardized tests. Instead, it should be our goal that each child succeeds in life by fostering their strengths as well as improving their skills in weak areas.