Column - Standardized tests do not help education and should be obsolete
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 08:04
For most students, dead week and finals week is an exciting experience. It’s the time that we are the most creative with our last-minute projects and all-nighters, and our frustrating group work tests our friendships. Don’t you love dead week and finals week? I didn’t think so.
Despite this University "rest" or "study" period called "dead week", most students don’t receive a break from their academic lives. Of course, as students at a University, we need to be tested on the knowledge that we have accumulated over the semester. There must be some measurement of our research and writing abilities. Yet, has testing exceeded its need in the classroom and become less effective?
According to Barbara Shelly, opinion writer for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, testing students as young as kindergartners for admission into gifted learning programs is detrimental to their education.
Although this testing will "assess which 4-year-olds have an exceptional grasp of shapes, colors, and numbers … with a way to better gauge [their] logic and reasoning skills," the main question from educators and scientists alike is this: what benefit will result from testing these young minds?
According to Shelly, the single major benefit of testing and placing exceptional children in advanced kindergarten classes is fast tracking their education to Ivy League schools. For the 14,000 kindergartners being tested for 400 seats in advanced classrooms, this exam might predict their future college education.
Unfortunately, for those who do not test well, they will be placed in the public schools, which do not academically compare to the academically stimulating private schools.
In spite of parents wanting to "compete with the Johnsons" and provide the best education for their children, the result of over-testing students comes to no avail.
According to FairTest, the national center for fair and open testing, "90 percent of teachers view the current overemphasis on standardized testing as detrimental to education ... A separate survey comparing younger with older teachers reported that both groups believe test scores are not strong measures of student success."
Ultimately, testing is nothing but an aesthetic score to separate high-achieving students and provide academic opportunities to those students, whereas those who do not test well will be left with their mundane education.
According to the Los Angeles Times, "There is now (a) widespread agreement that the federal No Child Left Behind Act, with its sole emphasis on standardized tests in English and math, was overly rigid, unfair to good schools and constricting to the curriculum.
It’s equally important to remember that the law was enacted for a reason – to pressure schools to do more for disadvantaged, black and Latino students."
Yet, has there been an increase in minority students in Ivy League programs? Or have white, upper-middle class students continued to dominate university campuses alike?
Testing isn’t fair. Even at the university level, too much testing and not enough learning is happening across the campus. As lecture classes turn into online or textbook based classes, we are losing the education that we are paying for.
In spite of all our work, during the week that we should be studying and preparing for finals week, students are cramming projects, papers and tests into a short five-day period because they are not provided with enough time to prepare.
Of course, this is neither the fault of the educator or student. This is at the fault of an ill-prepared schedule. Students are not mindless automatons. We need time to prepare and study. We need time to develop and hone those skills related to our fields of study that cannot be tested.
Likewise, the acceptance into elite programs across the campus depends on test scores as an admission process. Again, this aesthetic number is important for a standard.
But there must be some advantage provided to a student who is passionate for what he or she wants to pursue, despite not being in the top of his or her class. Academic success will not produce effective teachers. In fact, it could produce a wider gap between the student and teacher.
Communication skills, personality, work ethic and critical thinking skills are more important qualities to possess in the world than genius. Eventually, standard tests will fail and working with others in a lab, business or classroom will become the true test of an education.
If one cannot communicate, work with others, share ideas or solve problems in the real world, then their education has failed them.
Life is not a matter of winning or losing, high or low test scores, but about how well you play and how well you score.
Whether dead week or finals week turns out for the best or worst, as students, we must understand that testing provides aesthetic value to a program, and it cannot teach us how to prepare for the world.
It’s the untestable subjects in our lives that provide the greatest prediction to our future.