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Standardized Testing in High Schools

“Information is not knowledge.”

–Albert Einstein

Do standardized tests truly better the experience and productivity in public schools?  From grade schools to middle schools and right into high schools, standardized testing is pulling down the students in American schools.  There are many Americans on both sides of this issue and many more that are unsure on what is best for them or for their children.  Students are caught in the middle forced to either take and do well on these “standardized” tests, or fall by the way side and become a second class citizen.

According to FairTest.org, over a million high school students take the ACT every year with many of these same students, and others, also taking the SAT just for a chance to get into college.  These tests are now widely used by colleges and universities as a standard that must be met in order for students to be accepted into the school and attend classes.  According to Achieve.org, some states, such as Ohio, Florida, and Texas, even have a test that students are required to pass before they are able to receive their high school diploma.  Tests such as these are a poor representation of what the common student is capable of accomplishing because every student learns at a different level and rate.

By definition, a standard is something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model or a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment.  A big part of what makes these tests “standardized,” is the implication of a time limit in which students must finish the test or suffer point deductions.  But as I witnessed in my high school,   it is possible for students to get around the time limits set on the tests and in some cases even get the tests read to them by an instructor.  This was possible by obtaining an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which can give a student special privileges not just on standardized tests, but any test that they have to take while in school.  So my question is, how can this method be considered “standardized,” if not everyone is required to meet the same requirements at test time?

The high schools in America could produce better students and increase the quality and quantity of material covered in the classroom.  This could happen if those in charge could simply let go of their precious “standardized” tests.  If you listen in the high schools, all you seem to hear is how bad our teachers are instructing in the classrooms.  It’s no wonder students don’t want to be in school anymore, they’re not learning anything. Children these days are just being fed facts and tricks on how to pass the “necessary” tests that are basically required for a student to make it into college and graduate so that they can start into a successful life and career.

So much of the classroom time these days focuses on teaching students how to pass tests rather than educating them for their future.  Having gone through the public school system and also having a mother who is a school teacher I have seen how much time is taken away from the teaching and learning process so that the students can be prepared to take the tests at the end of the year.  Much of this wasted time could be managed and used to instruct the students properly so that they are actually learning and understanding rather than spitting out information of which they have no real mastery or knowledge.  FairTest.org says that many teachers have now begun to teach to the tests other then testing their students over the material that has been covered during lecture times.  This is in part due to all of the pressure that is put on teachers and school systems to get their students to have the highest passing rate possible on these tests.  Many times the results of the tests are used to evaluate the productiveness of the schools and of the individual teachers.  The more students that they can get to pass, the more money and support they can gain for their school.  So basically, if the students fail, then they are bringing their teachers down with them.

Are standardized tests really the best thing for our schools?  Students are still “learning,” but are they understanding and mastering the information that is being presented to them?  Schools and education are supposedly improving, but it seems like the students are falling farther and farther behind as every new group that comes along.  All you seem to hear in most college courses is the professor complaining about how their students haven’t learned anything in high school.  Also many rant about what level of knowledge their students should be displaying on in and out of class assignments.  They have no right to get mad at the student or even the teachers when the standards in high schools leave no room for knowledge and understanding.  If education is truly important, than as a nation we need to begin the process of moving away from standardized test and back towards more traditional teaching methods and true knowledge.

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”

George Bernard Shaw

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Categories: Standardized Testing
  1. Mark
    November 30, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think what you’re really getting at in this piece are “predictors”. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about predictors concerning successful teachers and NFL Quarterbacks in an article I invite you to read here (I also invite you to read everything he’s written):

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/15/081215fa_fact_gladwell

    The question I have for you is this: should everyone go to college? This isn’t the same question as: should everyone have the OPPORTUNITY to go to college?, but they often are confused.

    What I understand your point as is you don’t believe standardized tests are good predictors of success in college. Another question to you is, what can be used in their place? I don’t think that everyone should go to college, and there are a number of ways to be fulfilled and productive in society without a college education … ask LeBron James (*wink*). But seriously, if not standardized tests, what can we point to to say one person is college material, and another person is not?

  2. jessica waters
    December 6, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I can agree with you about how teachers are now simply teaching their students towards the test. I cannot see how good it does for those students who are simply bad test takers whom might get those low scores which the schools would frown upon. I mean it would not be their fault but also they might have came across a question that the teachers didn’t even talk about in their lessons because they felt like they did not need to talk about it or just ran out of time to get to it before the test.
    I cannot see how a school would request its students to take a test just to try and get their diplomas, have they not earned it already? I mean they had gone to school for twelve years now and they took tha “standardized test” every year that it was required for them to take it and now they must take another test. I think that those schools are not really helping their students out at all in my opinion.

  1. November 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm

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