Content testing, I-STEP testing, MEA’s, or SAT”s. Do any of these sound familiar? They should. These tests and others like them are a part of every student’s life from K-12. Are these exams the best way to test students? Can teachers no longer see what a student’s strengths and weakness are? Do the teacher’s grades even count? These questions have all been asked by some teachers who are resisting the now common practice of test based teaching.
States administer these tests for a variety of reasons such as grading schools, placement of students and funding. If a school falls behind what the state considers an average score in a particular area, they are placed on academic probation. At this point, schools have one year to bring the scores up to passing. If a school continues to fail, a moderator may be appointed to review the schools policies and staff. If the school’s scores still do not improve, the Association of Schools and Colleges may revoke the districts accreditation.
The question is not whether these tests are necessary, but are they really a realistic view of today’s students? There are many downfalls to standardized testing. Standardized testing does not account for creative thinking or artistic tendencies. They test for basic math, reading, understanding, vocabulary and science skills. These skills are all necessary, true. But from standardized testing, test based teaching was born. Test based teaching is the process of creating a lesson plan with a specific test or exam in mind. Whether it is a test administered by the state to rank public schools or a final exam, the content of the class is based only on questions and theory’s that may or may not appear on the exam. Unfortunately, creative thinking is not encouraged in this system. Students are not encouraged to think “outside the box” as it is not testable. Not only has this sort of teaching affected how students are taught, but districts are cutting back funding for physical education, home economics, arts and languages because they are beginning to be considered non-essential.
Testing has always been a way of judging how a particular group or individual has retained information on a particular subject. Instead of educators deciding curriculum, we have become a test based society. We should look to ways to improve our education system, not just test scores. Should the teachers gain back some of their trust by having individual grades count more? I believe so. Increase funding for the arts, physical education, languages and home economics instead of building that state of the art stadium. Education is important to every person in the world, and the U.S. cannot afford to fall further behind.