In evaluating whether students today suffer from an exaggerated number of tests, one must consider the outlook with which tests are treated and approached. Perhaps the effects lie not in the, deemed by many, overdone quantity of tests, but in the test-takers themselves. To do so, one must first understand the standpoint from which children view an education.
From his earliest days, a child frequently learns that intelligence and proficiency in learning sets the stage for future success. Report cards, a large percentage of which reflects the result of tests, occasion either great praise or censure from parents. Children possess an amazing talent for discerning the truth of a parent’s regard for them. Poor grades can cause the child great pain and, coupled with a parent’s disappointment, which will be difficult to conceal, place great pressure and stress upon him. Taught that success depends upon excellence in school, education becomes occasion for stress and worry, instead of simple delight in learning. Parents are always eager to discover what their child’s future may hold, wanting their child to be a doctor, lawyer, or other prestigious figure. This places further pressure upon the child to excel in school.
While such expectations and encouragements can provide great motivation, they also provide a breeding ground for stress. To most, tests today represent a cruel proclamation of intelligence. A good test score seems to prove one is smart, but poor test scores force feelings of ignorance to surface. However, grades should not be so dependant upon tests. Testing is simply an evaluation of the education gained so far. Often, they reflect the teacher far more largely than the students. A good teacher has the ability to induce his students to retain the information they learn. Consistently graded assignments better reflect a student’s grade. Any student can cram the night before a test, and dependant upon their testing proficiency, receive a good grade.
Yet, tests provide invaluable opportunity for the students. They provide a reason to study well and learn the material. They provide a challenge which pushes the student to learn as much as possible in order to excel. And, they do reveal how effectively he learned the material.
However, stress can have an adverse effect upon testing. The stress with which students’ face tests results from a culmination of expectations and fears. They fear to do poorly because it casts them in a light of ignorance. And, they feel the pressure of expectations to excel. While a little stress urges the student on to focus and study well, too much of it drives all focus and memory from the brain. If children learned to learn and commit to memory the materials as soon as they are taught and approached tests with the cool understanding they are only evaluations not representations of intelligence or ignorance, the stress would decrease by a hundred-fold.
Tests then become opportunities to discover what one has learned well and what not. They provide vital insight in how one learns best by understanding what materials taught in differing ways were easiest to remember. They show the teacher the effectiveness of his teaching and what areas the students have the most difficulty learning.
Many tests are not bad. Allowing stress to consume one is. I do not believe children are over-tested, but rather over-stressed about them. The expectations placed upon them by their parents and the ingrained belief one must be good in school to succeed must be overcome. Once they are, tests become opportunities and chances to challenge oneself rather than trials of stress. And, difficulties abound in trying to provide too many opportunities of that sort.