Standardized Testing

Testing the Troubled Waters?

Use a number two pencil only. Fill in the bubbles heavy and dark. When you finish this part of the test, put your pencil down and do not go back to any other section. These are the words that students across the United States dread. These words embody the pain of sitting in a chair for four hours, unable to talk, to get up, or even to breathe out loud until the voice of the all-powerful proctor commands. These words bring famine, and darkness, fear and pain. They are the words of Standardized Testing. This system is a massive, oozing scab on the face of the American education system, a system that needs to be thrown out completely and replaced with something better. It is a system that has spoiled our ideas of a good education like a dead fly spoils a vial of perfume. Standardized testing must be abolished and replaced with a system more suitable to prepare American students. As it is, they enter the international workforce completely unprepared.

In recent years, it has become obvious that the United States is losing ground in nearly every aspect of life to nearly every other country on the planetespecially in education. Even countries like Uganda and Sudan seem to have more intelligent students than we do, and they can’t even afford food! The blame falls squarely on standardized testing. Schools have become more and more dependent on test scores to evaluate the ability of their students, and test scores, rather than learning, become the number one priority. As a result, teachers and administrators feel enormous pressure to ensure that test scores go up. Schools narrow and change the curriculum to match the test. Teachers teach only what is covered on the test. Methods of teaching conform to the multiple-choice format of the tests. Teaching more and more resembles testing (http://www.fairtest.org/facts/howharm.htm) Learning takes a back seat to scores, and the education of every individual involved suffers accordingly.

It’s not just the students who are harmed because of standardized testing; even teachers suffer from this horrible system. According to Lola McDowell, a kindergarten teacher from Virginia, instructors are constantly heckled to raise their students’ test scores. … This year has been the most stressful year for me and for my team, and I think for many teachers, because there has been so much pressure from on top, that you have to make sure that these children pass this test. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/schools/testing/theme.html) Obviously, no one directly involved enjoys this system in any way.

Foreign countries like Japan and China also rely heavily on test scores when deciding the value of a student, but the difference in these countries is the fact that they have real standards. To say that we also have real standards, would be telling a blatant lie. Our standards are routinely lowered to make students feel better about themselves, but lower expectations don’t truly benefit them. Here in America, the cream of the crop is held back so that no child is left behind. If even a few students’ test scores are not high enough, the entire system suffers the consequences. Somehow, lowering the standards seems like a valid technique for schools to avoid looking stupid. This is ethical fallacy.

The fact that our children’s education is suffering is not the only problem. At the heart of the issue, the problem is simple. Our administration is afraid to tell a student that he failed. After all, if you keep telling him that his failure is acceptable, then what motivation does he have to improve? By doing so, we cripple the growth of our students and ensure their general unpreparedness in life. Why give an effort to do well when you can wait for standards to be lowered? The message pupils hear is: Forget excelling; just settle for the bare minimum! It’ll get lower anyway!

With these words echoing through the halls of our schools, our administration gathers the test scores together for a collective grading. The scores of one state are compared to the scores of another, equally incompetent state, and a conclusion is reached. The conclusion they reach often causes both states to end up below sea level, drowning in their own stupidity. Instead, we must compare our scores where it really mattersinternationallyand adjust our teaching strategy accordingly. When the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957, Americans were shocked that they might no longer be the most intelligent nation in the world; after all, if a nation shoots a shiny object into space, it inherently makes them more intelligent. With this realization, America committed to a drastic overhaul in the education system, an overhaul that we are in desperate need of again today.

Our fill-in-the-bubbles testing should be abolished, paving the way for a much more rigorous system that better prepares our students for life in the real world. Reality has finally caught up with those Americans living the American dream, and the real world doesn’t need our students to bubble in heavy and dark. The real world is a world which requires more than simply adept use of a number two pencil; it also requires us to trash standardized testing as we know it and replace it with a shiny, new system that truly represents how much our students know. Standards must be raised, and we must begin to catch up to foreign nations, lest we be left behind for good. Instead of teaching to the test simply to improve scores, why don’t we actually let the kids learn for a change? We must teach them what they need to know in order to succeed in life, not just succeed on a multiple-choice test. After all, sometimes the answer to life isn’t A, B, C, or D.