Standardized testing is ruining public education. In order to offer reasons to support this statement, it is necessary to answer three questions: What is standardized testing? How is standardized testing used? Who are affected by standardized testing?
WHAT is standardized testing? There are different types of standardized tests, such as, aptitude tests, college entrance exams, placement tests and the dreaded achievement test. All these tests work the same. The achievement test has become the major focus of parents, teachers and concerned citizens. Standardized tests are a comparison of the person taking the test to a “normal” group. That is, the test is first given to a sample group of people. This sample group’s results are arranged along a bell-shaped curve. The lower end testers make up the left end of the curve and the higher end scorers are on the right end. Rising from the left end the curve arches gradual to the top of the bell. The top of the bell represents the point where the most of the normal group placed. The curve then arches down to the right side. The resulting curve is in the shape of a bell. The curve becomes the standard of comparison for test takers. By comparing the raw score of the test taker to the bell curve, the child’s percentile can be determined. Ranging from 1 on the left and 99 on the right with 50 being the midpoint on top of the bell. In order for the comparison to be valid, the conditions must be the same for both the normalizing group and the test takers. Key factors to be controlled are time allotted for each test, seating, desk arrangement, number of test takers in the room, time of the day that test is given, temperature range of testing room, etc. The normal curve is adjusted every so many years. The scores can then be used to determine “low achievers” and “high achievers.” Schools can be held accountable for their test scores.
HOW is standardized tests used? Once upon a time, standardized testing was a useful tool. It was used to diagnose a pupil’s progress and problem areas. Schools could find discrepancies between the planned result and the actual result. The school could then adjust the curriculum. That was then and this is now. In today’s word of accountability, the standardized test has become a tool to compartmentalize children, set promotion requirements, and measure the quality of a school. Standardized test results have become the measure of a pupil’s ability and capability. The test results determines who will pass and who will fail. Test results decide the college that a pupil qualifies to attend. The standardized test results is also used to identify superior schools and those that must be reorganized. Some schools have even instituted merit pay for teachers based on their classes test results.
WHO are affected by standardized test results? Everyone! Pupils, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards and home owners. Each year schools publish the results of standardized testing. These results are provided to the parents of pupils. The results area available to the community in general. These published results affect property values. The school personnel are concerned because of probation and possible restructuring. Child grow anxious.
Why will standardized testing lead to the ruin of public education? The following are some reasons why.
Children that attend public schools need to learn the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. They need learn about science and history and geography and art and music. They also need to learn to think and socialize and be decent human beings. Standardized testing does not allow for this. Reading, math, science and social studies can be measured with an established standard. Since these standardized tests have become the measure of accountability, the items not measured are not as important.The manufacturers of the standardized test have become the curriculum developers. Nether parents nor teachers have control over the curriculum. Test questions, although held secret, are the “brave new” curriculum. Teachers and school committees spend valuable time trying to out guess the test makers to give the children an edge on the test. This has become the new curriculum.Valuable time needed for instruction and learning is being consumed by test preparation time. Schools are mandating teachers prepare their students for the standardized test. “Take a half hour each day to help the pupils learn to take a test.” Administrators tell their teachers. Learning to take “the test” is as important or perhaps more important as learning to communicate. Parents become angry with schools when taxes increase while test results decrease. Property valves decline. Parents are upset because their children seem to be learning less and are demonstrating disenchantment with their schools. The cry for accountability increases the call for effort on the school board to increase test scores. The teachers are faced with greater pressure to increase test scores. This is becomes a vicious loop. Soon the politicians get involved. Increased accountability measures are placed on schools. Taxes are increased to cover the costs but it seems quite enough and school districts have to eliminate programs or increase class size.
In conclusion public schools are being ruined by the standardized test. Children are being pigeonholed by test scores. The individuality of the child is being lost. The fact that children learn differently is ignored. Not all children do well on standardized tests. Children should not be compared. The school curriculum needs to be developed by the local school districts taking into account the community and needs of the children. Time is critical in the learning process. Part of learning needs to include time for children to socialize and exercise. Recess time and lunch time have cut. School days have grown longer with increased amounts of homework. Thus time for outdoor recreation, fun time with friends and family time have been seriously compromised. Finally the cost of education has skyrocketed and the satisfaction with schools have plummeted. Taxes have become a heavy burden for homeowners. Increased demand for vouchers for private schools and the birth of “charter schools” have put the public school on the road of ruin.