Why Standardized Tests are Ruining Public Education

While the need for standardized tests is undoubted, currently there are too many of them to perform the benefits they are meant to. These benefits are connected with employers and admissions tutors at university or other higher education institutes having data on their students which is quickly and easily interpretable. An A grade is easily understandable across the board.

Unfortunately these tests should be used to show what education has achieved rather than as an end in themselves. A test should not be something requiring incessant study but instead a genuine test of what knowledge has been accumulated over the course of learning. Test should be less frequent and of varying types depending on different aptitudes of students, so their should be some tests that value memory and information retention, others that value independent critical thinking and others that do both. Grading should be varied, particularly at the top, the aim should not be to get as many as possible to achieve a top grade by broadening it but instead to improve achievement at all levels while at the same time pushing children to demonstrate their highest level of intelligence.

By the end of secondary education (i.e. at 16 or 18) the results of tests should be a rounded account of the student, highlighting theior skills but also their weeknesses and suggesting hat options are open to them and how much work is required to achieve different goals. So a gifted student’s test results should show that they are ahead of the average and how much so, what they are capable of and what will be harder. Similarly children ho perform worse on tests should be told this, it is no good to manipulate tests and figures to give a child a falsely optimistic version of their potential – this insistence has led to many people entering university completely unaware of the potential hard work that lies ahead and so leading to drop-outs.

This does not mean the outlook should be pessimistic. a young person should leave high-school having established where exactly their talent do lie, maybe they are less good at remembering facts for tests but better at solving practical problems, maybe there is some are of learning that will excite their interest and inspire a wish to learn that raises previous test scores. From the beginning of education children should be evaluated – not in the form of standardized tests but of alert and inspirational teacher who can spot the spark that will inspire learning at the same time as discovering and addressing weaknesses – no teacher should be afraid of saying to both child and parents that for example, the child’s weakness in maths is a barrier to their ambition of being an engineer – the options are then presented on how to proceed. This could take the form of simply pointing out that harder work will be needed if the pupil wants to continue in that direction, or even that such a direction may be practically impossible and the search should continue to find the individual talent that is surely present in all people.

So for this reason teachers should not be afraid of closing, or disuading the journey down, certain passages – of giving genuine individual advice that goes beyond just encouraging the student to find their level on the grade from A-E and stick there. Not all people have the same talents but I believe that everything has some talent in some area of life – this is what an education system should aim to locate and develop.