Do you remember the five minute warnings? Recall that feeling of utter relief when you reached that last “STOP” in your answer booklet. It seems like ancient history for those of us that have graduated high school, but it is still a reality for many unfortunate American students. Some students, including me, quite enjoyed the week of standardized testing. It was one of the more relaxed weeks. However, has it taken away from the original purpose of education? Isn’t the purpose for students to learn and master as much as possible? With our current system they certainly “learn” a lot. They also forget a lot, and miss many important topics. Certain things can’t be covered because the teacher fears that if the topics on the tests aren’t covered, it will be their job that is at stake. On top of that, even some of the topics that are taught sometimes are not covered for as long, or as in depth as they should have been. The quality and the quantity of teaching time on some subjects is lessened by the teachers’ rush to carry on and touch on all of them so that the students would excel on standardized testing. So students are left to memorize formulas and definitions, sometimes with very little actual understanding because they know that what is important to them is filling in the right bubble. Have we strayed so far from what education was intended to be?
Initially standardized testing was simply intended to help sort out which schools need to work on what subject area in future years. Unfortunately instead of being a test of the standards set for a school, standardized tests have become the standard within themselves. When the state official chooses what the students should know, he will often expect the students to know everything about the subject matter they are being taught, according to professor emeritus at California University, and author of twenty five books, W. James Popham. He further explains that “the resultant litanies of committee-chosen content standards tend to resemble curricular wish lists rather than realistic targets.” The natural response of the educators in the school system is to become overwhelmed with all of the matter they feel they should cover, and end up feeling forced to choose what is most important. Popham asserts that this leads to a serious issue in that students end up not having really mastered a lot of the content they were “taught” throughout the school year.
Some may question what, if we get rid of standardized testing, would we do to keep the teacher’s accountable? If the teacher’s make all of the tests themselves, wouldn’t they simply be more centered on what the teacher knows they have taught well? I, unfortunately, cannot refute this argument. However, in order for the system to be reformed, it doesn’t necessary demand that we get rid of standardized testing, but simply change it and make it more beneficial for the students while at the same time testing the teachers.
When I was in High School, I noticed the teachers’ constant emphasizing on what we’d be tested on at the end of each year. What would follow was the realization that most of the stuff I was supposed to have learned, I forgot about because the teacher had such limited time to cover the more difficult content. With standardized testing, the teaching style was based off of quantity of information and not so much quality. So re-learning things the following years was always a necessity, even though we were allegedly to have “mastered” it. Hence why it would be put on the test, correct? Formulas forgotten, and definitions left to be learned over again, standardized testing does no more, in its current state, than to prove how well a student can how much information for a relatively short period of time.
Do I believe that standardized testing should be completely deleted from our educational system? No, I don’t hold that opinion at all. I honestly don’t see any other way to test a teacher’s quality of work without some sort of test being created from an outside source. However I do believe that the current ideas for how standardized tests should be created and given out are very faulty and need reforming. I think that they should be created in such a way as to test the already clearly laid out curriculum. Thus far the tests themselves seem to vaguely lay out the curriculum. They have become the alpha and omega of a teacher’s duty, and not simply a determiner of the teacher’s work ethic and skill.
Popham, W. Edutopia. The George Lucas Educational Foundation. Web.
http://www.edutopia.org/f-for-assessment. 4 April 2011.
Stake, Robert. Phi Delta Kappa International. Nov. 1991. Web.
http://www.jstor.org/stable/20404603?seq=1. 4 April 2011.