Frequent testing impedes on students’ ability to learn new information and apply it correctly in their lives. Furthermore, subjects mainly focused on high-stakes tests are math, reading and writing; leaving school districts to stray away from other important subjects such as social studies, the arts and foreign language. The education system stamps on the concept of seeing the world in anything, other than black and white. When dealing with the possibilities of areas in interests, our learning system blurs out artistic or social intelligences, and focuses on socializing through subjects heavily based of mathematics, literature and the sciences. Teachers and administrators are not to blame. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, mandates that schools measure and account for the performance of their students. Moreover, harsh sanctions are put in place for those school districts that do not meet the “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP; a numerical value that defines student performance. The law also mandates schools to administer standardized tests and report the results to the state. Students are deprived of humanity; in aspect, everyone is seen as a number. The system doesn’t care about how the students got the score, and the effort it took to get there. All that they look at is the number they stand for. The standardized test movement has corrupted the very nature of education and learning by forcing educators to focus on test-taking skills, such as strict memorization, rather than important concepts, the overall desire to want to learn and understand the subject. These assessments thwart educational growth because their questions are generalized; they instill fear of failure in students; and they hinder efforts by teachers to improve their pedagogical methods.
The original intent for high-stakes testing was to sort the massive inflow of students at the turn of the century. Slowly, they became a way to evaluate schools and their efficiency. States determine whether a school is fulfilling the responsibility of effective teaching or not by the results of generalized pen-and-paper tests in which all students are expected to complete, regardless of their learning capabilities. Standardized assessments are created from an outside source other than the school that is administering them. Many educators and experts work tirelessly to develop these assessments, but what they do not understand is that each student has their own method of learning. Test developers do not witness the learning process of an individual in a classroom. So how can they truly be aware of how each student learns? They cannot. Teachers interact with students every single day, and they know and understand what works best for their students.
Standardized means all students in the state must take the same assessment. The questions do not evaluate the skills of the students simply because the questions are vague. To effectively learn, the mind must be challenged. Basic skills questions do not appropriately measure a student’s learning. When developing these tests, an important factor is not considered; each student learns at a different pace. Every brain is different from the next, it absorbs information differently for everyone. Different students implement their own learning method that individually caters to them. All students in a classroom learn the same thing at the same pace. If one student falls behind, they must catch up because the rest of the class is moving on with the curriculum. This overwhelming environment and panic negatively impacts the learning community.
Another critique on standardized testing, emphasizes the belief that tests are by procedure for the sole purpose of holding schools and teachers accountable for their student’s performance. Teachers abandon their original curriculum to prepare for the high-stake test. The school environment is shifting their main focus on their employees, not the learning rate of their students. Spending more time on test related subjects, affects the time spent on other creative concentrations like social studies and the arts.
School districts must pay the company that manufactures the assessments. In a utopian reality, such money driven evaluations would not be considered. The primary goal should be to expose the minds of the youth to new ideas and provide deep explanations of the world around them.
Testing becomes the focus in a classroom. Teachers spend countless hours obsessing over the content of the tests; further distracting from other subject areas. Any student will admit, their teacher has told them for multiple choice questions, “there are four choices that all may seem to be the right answer, but only one is the true answer.” “Don’t be too creative. Don’t think too hard. Only give them what they want. Pace yourself.” These phrases are becoming too frequent and they hinder the creativity and critical thinking necessary for effective learning. Creative children are stumped when they see the generalized questions on the assessments. It teaches them that there is only one viable answer and there is no room for creativity. Standardized tests look at the final step rather than the learning journey itself.
A more effective way to measure student learning would be to measure their improvement through classroom assignments. The instructor can create projects to highlight creativity and free thinking. The stress of standardized testing falls upon the student as they fear they will not pass. Furthermore, no student should take a high-stakes test in an anxious state. The results of a test, where a student “blanks” because of test anxiety, do not reflect the student’s true performance; thus, creating a blurred snapshot of that students’ academic achievements.
These tests are administered to thousands of students. It is unlikely that every single student can be present on test day. Under these circumstances, it is counterintuitive to believe that a child can demonstrate their full capabilities of what they have learned. A student in South Carolina responded to standardized tests by saying, “All they care about is the test; they don’t care if we learn anything.” Learning success should be valued more than success on tests.
A handful of students do not show much concern for the tests and do not fully understand the consequences. Students fill out the bubbles on the exam sheet so that they form a picture, thus getting the answers marked incorrect. These students are then placed in a low-level class for the following years of their educational career. Apparently, results from a single exam are enough evidence to show the full capabilities of students, even when they lack care for the assessments.
Politics and money are much too involved in education today. By using high-stakes testing to hold teachers accountable for their students, and to reward and punish them based on test results, the politically-motivated system distracts educators from teaching creative subjects that students may be interested in. Students who excel, use past experiences to critically view the world surrounding them. Standardized testing interrupts that creativity. This current system must be abandoned before another student gets left behind by the “test-prep” teaching model mandated by No Child Left Behind.
Brooks, Martin. Brooks, Jacqueline. “The Courage to Be Constructivist.” The Constructivist Classroom. vol. 57, no. 3, 1999, pp. 18-24. Accessed 28 Nov. 2017.
Herman, Joan L., and Shari Golan. “Effects of Standardized Testing on Teachers and Learning–Another Look.” (1990)