No Child Left Behind: So Let's Test Children To Death!
By now if you are a living, breathing, and functioning human being you have heard the debate about standardized tests. Some people agree with standardized tests and some people do not. There was a time in the education world when teachers taught to create a well-rounded educated child. However, times have changed. Now instead of focusing on a variety of topics and concepts teachers are instead forced to stick to a strict curriculum which has been designed by school districts to cover tested materials. So this means the students are actually learning less than they were before because teacher’s hands are tied when deciding what concepts to teach. Teachers are instead limited to the concepts and topics that are only on the test, nothing more, and nothing less. Teachers no longer make the decisions about what is taught and what is not taught, instead it is the test makers that are choosing what is important for a students to know while moving through the education career. The highly trained teachers that have gone through years of training and college are now stuck teaching what random (maybe not even educators) test makers have deemed important. Many decades ago standardized tests came and went with little fanfare. The teachers were not very concerned about the standardized tests and neither were the students. This is probably the only time when the standardized tests actually gave an accurate assessment of a student’s progress throughout the school year, because now a days we have changed our entire curriculum to teach to the test. So data is no longer accurate.
Should teachers be evaluated on the outcomes of standardized tests?
Standardized tests limit teachers. In many schools the primary grades have been limited to a focus on Reading and Math, which has thrown Social Studies and Science to the side. Students no longer are learning about important social aspects or scientific exploration in the world in the primary grades. Students are instead bombarded with Reading and Math, which are what the many testing concepts deal with. These concepts are shoved down students’ throats. Reading and Math are important subjects but Social Studies and Science are just as important but since younger students are not tested on these subjects they are no longer important. My school day actually consist of no Social Studies or Science unless I can incorporate it into my Reading lessons. This is not my choice but a choice that was made for me by my school district and the standardized tests.
In higher grades Social Studies and Science become more prevalent but just like Math and Reading these subjects are also limited to concepts and topics on the standardized tests. If it’s not on the test then there is no reason to teach it. This is not the choice of the teacher. Test makers, states, and the country have decided to invest so much into one isolated test that the whole school year is now run around the tests.
The tests control a lot of things. Many districts have merit pay linked to scores on standardized tests. Yes, it is true that people work harder when offered incentives but basing someone’s yearly work on ONE ISOLATED test is preposterous but that is exactly what we have done. We are also forcing all students to take the same standardized tests. All children are not alike. Some children are on Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and they are learning at a different level than the grade they are in. For example, a student may have an IEP that is at a second grade level when they are in grade five. Imagine a student who is only being taught how to add and subtract basic facts (2+2, 8-5), but then when standardized tests come around they are not tested at the level they are achieving at but instead are tested at a fifth grade level and they are now expected to perform long division, add fractions with uncommon denominators, and multiply three digit numbers. There is no way this student is going to be able to complete this test with success. The test now becomes a guessing game and a time to create large amounts of stress and frustration for the child taking the test because they have no idea what the test is talking about. Does it make sense to judge a teacher on this child’s test? Students that are only being taught life skills are also required to take standardized test. In life skills classrooms students are learning basic skills to help them create a better life for their selves. Many times they are not taught addition, reading, etc… because some of these students will never be able to do these things. Our priority for life skills children is that they are able to take care of their selves enough to live a happy and fulfilling life but yet we expect them to take the standardized tests. WHAT?!? How can you judge a teacher on students’ scores when students are all different?
Also what if a student is distracted on the day of the test. Students are just like adults they have off days too. Students are dealing with a lot of issues that are out of the control of the teacher such as: a bad home life, drugs in the home, lack of nourishment, sickness, deaths in the family, sleepiness, worried about taking care of siblings, etc. Students face a lot of obstacles that we may not know about, students may be receiving their only meal of the day at the school, or a student may be the main caretaker in a family of other siblings. I highly doubt that a standardized test is at the top of these students’ priority lists.
In addition to all of the above mentioned reasons why standardized tests are a bad idea think about the actual class time wasted administering test, after test, after test. Overall students lose an average of 20 school days to standardized tests. This includes preparing for tests. Other professions are not judged on one singular test or day, if a lawyer loses in court are they given a bad rating, if a person gets a cavity does that mean the dentist did not do their job, or if someone has a heart attack does that mean the doctor failed to keep the individual in good health. When you compare teaching to these other professions it places things into a better perspective.
There is very little that is good about the standardized tests but there is something. The tests do show teachers data in areas where students are having difficulty. Teachers are able to use the results of the tests to see what concepts need re-taught or where instruction may need changed. The tests do help teachers re-evaluate their self and change accordingly but teachers do this all the time on regular tests, classwork, and homework in the classroom.
What Does It All Mean?
In closing the standardized test could be used in a positive way but too much has been placed on the outcome of the tests. Curriculum and teaching has been changed by what test makers have deemed important and students are learning less now than they were decades ago. Standardized tests force all students to be tested as if they are the same when in fact they are all at various levels dealing with different life experiences and situations in the home.