Standardized testing has become synonymous with public education. Once known as CAT, California Achievement Tests, these tests were given to students in certain grades to measure their knowledge. Over the last two decades, standardized testing has become a nightmare.
Testing has been part of our educational system here in the United States and, as I am sure, around the world. Tests are used to measure a student’s mastery of the subject material that the teacher has taught. Tests are given in elementary schools starting, with kindergarten up through 12th grade as well as on the University level. In many school districts, CBTs (Curriculum Based Testing) are given at the end of the year in order for the student to proceed to the next grade. This type of test is similar to the cumulative exams given at the end of the semester on the college level. These tests, cumulative exams, test on the material learned that semester; in the elementary and secondary setting, CBTs test on the material given within that school year. If a student does not pass, they are usually given a second chance otherwise they are held back in the same grade for another year.
Today, students, in school districts around the nation, are not only assessed CBTs but are also given standard tests based upon Federal guidelines. The federal government sets the standards for testing, they decide what the students will be tested on and they decide what the passing score should be. If states and the school districts don’t comply with Federal Standards then their funding is held and in some instances taken away. Therefore, state standards reflect the federal guidelines.
Students have to receive a proficient or advanced in order to graduate and for states to receive their federal funding. Teachers all across the board are now teaching to the test instead of actually teaching their subject material. Students who cannot reach proficient or advance quit school instead of being held back. In many cases, school districts would rather see them leave so that their funding is not jeopardized. So the ugly process begins, teachers are hounded by Principals who are hounded by Administrator. Administrators need to achieve federal guidelines in order to receive their funding.
Classes are no longer arranged by strengths, instead, all students are placed in one classroom and the teacher teaches to the middle of the class. Those students who are exceptional lose interest as well as those who are considered under-performing. School Districts use the heterogeneous setting for it is the easiest way to achieve their objective, to teach test taking and the test. Teaching across the board saves time. Why? Standardized tests are all the same, they are not broken apart for exceptional, gifted, average or under-performing students. Teachers know that the top 1-5% will automatically pass the test; it is the middle 85-90% they have concentrate on to pass the test; the under-performing sector, well teachers hope they will catch on and pass, it not, well we will see them next year or if old enough, they will drop out. So teaching to the middle of the class has become the norm.
Students no longer have the opportunity to be placed in classes based upon their ability; they no longer have the opportunity to enjoy class trips, field trips, or activities that get the whole class involved. Our education system is deteriorating instead of progressing. Why? It’s all about scores and America’s standing in the world. What is ironic about this statement is that our educational system is lagging way behind our European counterparts.