Standardized Testing: No Child Left Behind, Only Forgotten
By: Mason Powell
When it comes to education reform, almost everyone jumps to the subject of standardized testing. Some say it is a beneficial aspect to the current method of education, while others say it is a hindrance. Along with many other drawbacks, standardized testing is not an effective means of measuring the intellect of the student in question. That’s not to say all testing is bad, just that when someone is being compared against everyone in the country the odds are sort of stacked against them. The problem is that in the process of test prep and testing the way it is done now creates a sort of tension in the relationship between the individual and their own education. How many students have sat in that seat, day after day even, listening to this test prep on subjects they have either barely covered or have altogether skipped? Not only does this waste valuable time, but it is a confusing and lengthy process.
Vito Perrone, a graduate school teacher in education, says that standardized testing places immense pressure on students and teachers (Perrone). Aside from the standards placed on students during this tumultuous period, teachers are also held to rigorous standards. They feel responsible if the school doesn’t score where it needed to on the scale. This is in addition to the fact that after the test, educators have either unrealistic or apathetic opinions of students, simply because they didn’t get a proficient in reading or math. According to Perrone, this is a very narrowing factor in the education opportunities of the student (Perrone). The other side of this is just as stressful; it is hard to ensure the welfare of hundreds of children with a single exam. Undoubtedly SOMEONE is going to be left behind. Not everyone is cut out to jump every hurdle on the road of education, and unfortunately, some are going to be left behind.
Diane Ravitch is a professor of Education in New York University as well as an educational historian. Diane’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School System – How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education stands against standardized testing. Citing numerous examples in her book, Ravitch claims that standardized testing does little to measure the intellectual capacity of anyone. She cites an example of why she believes that (Ravitch 45). In this study, the school with high numbers of Latinos and African Americans tend to not score as high on tests. For standardized testing to be a valid concept, it assumes that all other things are equal. Clearly this is not the case. Both whites and minorities in life face difficulty, though these adversities may vary. How are you going to worry about a test when you worry about putting food on the table?
Admittedly, standardized testing was a good concept. Everyone held to the same standard of education? Sounds fair in this world where discrimination by race or income can make a huge difference on how you see your education. Unfortunately, it isn’t a concept that works in practice; it only works in theory. People can not be held to the same standards when they have other limiting influences. Standardized testing can’t measure a person’s musical ability or how well they move a paintbrush. The next Pablo Picasso could be sitting the room next to you during your final exam, but because he can’t do trigonometry he is labeled as ‘stupid’. Fact of the matter is, just because you do something other than the Classical Elements of School (Math, Science, English, and ‘Social Studies’), doesn’t mean you aren’t equally valuable to the person sitting next to you who can read the numbers falling down the screen like the guys in The Matrix.
In conclusion, Standardized Testing, while not an evil if performed in, lets say college entrance, places unrealistic standards on the nation as a whole. In testing readiness for post-secondary education, it applies. In testing if 14 year old little Johnny down in the country should make it to his sophomore year by comparing him to 14 year old 132 IQ Susie in the big city where tutors and educators flock, it cannot and should not apply. We like to pretend that everyone fits in the template of Elementary School, Middle School, then High School before skipping off to college, but that simply isn’t the case, no matter what any test says. People expect education that benefits them, not test prep that does nothing but test your ability to jump through a hoop for a few years before they let you go.
Perrone, Vito. "On Standardized Testing." Childhood Education, v67 n3 p131-42 Spr (1991): pg 131-142. Web. Ravitch, Diane. The death and life of the great American school system : how testing and choice are undermining education. New York, 2010. Web.