Standardized tests have their place in education. I believe it is wise to know where students rank in performance, academically, so the school districts and teachers know how to appropriately adjust the curriculum. I believe standardized tests can help increase quality education when strategically done. Though, over the last couple of decades, testing has been on the rise, and the impact of such an increase is starting to boil over. From, no child left behind to the recent implementation of common core, standardized testing has escalated to something beyond what it used to be. I believe time spent on prepping to executing standardized testing, has crossed the line from a healthy way to track performance to an unhealthy competition, of sorts.
“What happens when our students are, beyond the standards?”
When we devote months and after school hours to prepare children for standardized tests, are we preparing them for a quality education or are we creating a facade? Are we only teaching them to become test takers? Are we killing the joy of learning and teaching? As one teacher (Susan Sluyter, who quit after 25+ years of teaching) said in an article from the Washington Post, “My job is now about tests and data — not children. I quit“. At what point are the students considered valuable, beyond the standards? If the only way we accomplish knowing a students performance is by testing and more testing, and teaching them how to become test takers; but then are neglecting to personally know them, and their learning style; then I believe, overall, we are failing our students.
Currently, on top of all the standard testing, there has been recent increase in teacher evaluations. Right now in Michigan the stakes are high. Many teachers careers are on the line and their stress is increased. Evaluation intentions are good; but so far, all I’ve heard from teachers is how their teaching and individual quality time with students has greatly suffered. Teachers are facing higher turnover rates and more burnout than ever before. Twitter is littered with teacher hashtags on #burnout. So in between the prepping and the testing, they also have to prep for their own evaluations that take away from the time needed to teach and help their students. With all that is involved in testing and evaluations, it leaves me to question, does the teacher have time to actually know their students and apply new strategies to boost students learning? Are the teachers able to learn the students individual learning style and emotional needs and implement it to help improve their learning and performance? Or, are the students forced to conform to the standards while more testing and prepping is implemented?
There are stories upon stories out there that address the negative impact these increased tests are having on students and teachers. The stress doesn’t just stay in the classrooms. Parents, students, teachers, and their families are all affected by the increased testing. Parents are becoming concerned for their children’s well being. The Washington Post reported on, the harsh reality of how test driven curriculum affects kids. According to a Huffington Post article, New York Students Are Incredibly Stressed Out About Standardized Testing, Survey Says. There is currently an “#optout” movement that is sweeping the nation (you can find this growing movement on twitter). Here is yet another story, from the Washington Post, that talks about, legally opting-out from state standardized testing, with the constitution being on your side.
“If the only way we accomplish knowing a students performance is by testing and more testing, and teaching them how to become test takers; but then are neglecting to personally know them and their learning style, then I believe, overall, we are failing our students.”
What happens when our students are, beyond the standards? What about our gifted and 2e students and those that don’t perform well on test, like some of the artistic/creatively inclined? (You can read more about why gifted children don’t test well, here.) While many students may test well and fine, there are a percentage that do not. How does this impact their confidence, self esteem, and self image? How will they envision their future? When looking at the overall picture, one question arises, are they being under served when it comes to a quality education? It’s kind of a paradox. On one hand, standardized tests are suppose to be a tool used to increase quality; but when the students tested think beyond how a test is structured, and their perfectionism can get the best of them, how does this increase the quality of their education? If these students are known to not test well, then how are we appropriately measuring their ability and performance? How are we ensuring that quality education will be available to them?
So while testing can be a powerful tool and does have its place, when used in moderation and strategically done; I also believe increased testing can and has negatively impacted our students and teachers. Where we are at today, the importance standardization is above the students and teachers well being. It is overtaxing them, and in the long run, is under serving them. I believe our children’s needs are beyond today’s plethora of standardized tests. Less testing would allow the focus to be back on the child, their emotional needs, and learning style. It is imperative to bring the joy of learning back to the classroom to ensure a true quality education.
How do you feel about this topic?
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I’m going to leave you with this video message.
It’s an artistic expression from a students point of view on standardized testing.
The person delivering the message talks about high ability learners failing tests and the affects the tests have on them as students. It’s apparent from the video that this isn’t just an issue in the USA. It seems to be somewhat global. I came across this video on twitter during the #whatif twitter campaign and thought it made some good points. It doesn’t reflect the thoughts, views or opinions of Patchwork Poppies. Though, I thought I’d share because it makes one think.
You can skip to, 0:44 where the message starts.
Lets stop this “Tall Poppy Syndrome” together. Lets embrace each other and help make this world a better place.
Spread the word!
With much love,