What if I am not good at making choices

What if I am not good
at making choices under pressure? What if I haven’t learned the material on the
test yet? These are questions that students across the country ask themselves about
standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT. We are told that these tests will
accurately represent our academic abilities to colleges, which causes a lot of
stress in our lives. Standardized tests do not test the knowledge or
well-roundedness of a student, but their strategic ability and their
ability to memorize information. The tests are designed in way to
administer and record the student’s capabilities but, in
reality, the tests themselves are only focused on two or three
subjects. Thus, the process of the standardized
test is largely unfair because, although these tests are meant represent a
student’s abilities in basic core subjects, there are many inaccuracies in
terms of measuring the overall academic ability of the student. Only a small
portion of what makes our education meaningful is measured by standardized
tests. Also, this excessive amount of testing may
teach us to be good at taking tests, but it does
not prepare them for productive and meaningful adult lives. Instead of
administering these tests, schools should focus on preparing students for their
future. Don’t we want students to reach their full potential?

 

Go back to your high
school days. Do you remember all the material you learned in class or only what
the teacher said was important? Standardized testing does not improve students’ academic performance. After the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2002, the United States’ Math ranking fell from 18th
to 31st with very similar
drops in the Science portion. There was,
however, no change in the reading portion. Also, it has been found
that many schools tend to use test-based material to form their yearly
curriculum. In May of 2011, the National Research Council
conducted a report which found no evidence of test-based programs having the
intended effect on
students’ education: “Even though they’ve been in use for several
decades, policymakers and educators still do not know how to use these
incentives to generate consistently positive effects on academic achievement.” Teaching
to the test is replacing many existing and helpful teaching practices. The University
of Maryland conducted a five-year study which found that the declines in;
teaching upper-level thinking, in the amount of time spent working through
complex assignments, and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the
curriculum was due to the pressure teachers were feeling to teach materials
found in standardized tests. Conducted in 2007 by the Center on Education
Policy, another national study reported that “since
2001, 44% of school districts had reduced the time spent on science, social
studies and the arts by an average of 145 minutes per week in order to focus on
reading and math.” This
deprives students that are interested in those subjects of exploring their
interests. This in
turn could lead to negative
feelings towards school and learning.  A 2007 survey consisting of 1,250
Social Studies and Government teachers showed that, for almost 75% of those
teachers, teaching current events less often cited standardized tests as the
reason. While teaching test material is a good thing for that test, it causes
the students and teachers to lose sight of the other important subjects that
aren’t math or reading. This also causes the subjects seen as less important to
be pushed to the side and not given enough attention.

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Can you remember the
stress you had in the weeks leading up to your test? I can. I couldn’t eat the
night before, I was so worried. I started
studying for my test a year before I took it. A year. I spent countless hours
each week online, doing math practice, doing reading practice, doing practice
tests. In the end, all of my
studying payed off, but it took up so much time that could
have been used for more productive activities. I remember
being so nervous the day of, I didn’t even want to leave my
house. Standardized tests can place a huge amount of stress on both
students and teachers. Not only can this lead to negative feelings towards
school and learning, but it can also cause serious health consequences. It is every
day now that teachers quit their jobs because of their inability to handle the
stress placed upon them to prepare students for standardized tests. According
to education researcher Gregory J. Cizek, anecdotes “abound
illustrating how testing… produces gripping anxiety in even the brightest
students, and makes young children vomit or cry, or both.”
These are just some examples of the health
side-effects of stress, none of which are good for you. On Mar.

14, 2002, the Sacramento Bee reported that “test-related jitters,
especially among young students, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes
with instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on
it.” The fact that the tests only evaluate
our performance on that specific day also causes extreme stress to be perfect
the day of. The tests do not evaluate our yearly progress and overall growth. This
is unfair to both the teacher who worked to improve their students’ education
and the students who worked hard during the year yet failed to get a good
score. Many people would argue that both student and
teacher performance should be evaluated on yearly growth instead of performance
on a single day. Personally, I am terrible at taking tests. I was
a mess the day of. Granted, I scored very well, but had I not scored as such,
it would have been monumentally unfair, because of all the work I put into the
test preparation. I spent at least 3 hours a week for about 4 months studying
and learning strategies. I find that it was quite a waste of time because the
material on the test was fairly basic, only the strategies I learned were very
helpful.

 

On the contrary, I do
have to give standardized testing some credit. It was found that, including the
use of large-scale and high-stakes standardized tests, 93% of testing had a
positive effect on students’ academic achievement. Complimentary to that, most
students that were asked claimed that standardized tests are fair. A Public
Agenda survey of 1,342 public school students, ranging from 6th to
12th grade, found that 79% believed test questions to be fair and
71% thought the number of tests requires was “about right”. Standardized tests
can also be objective and reliable ways to measure student achievement. Multiple-choice
sections of these tests, in particular, “are graded by machines and therefore
are not subject to human subjectivity or bias.”  The tests also prepare students for certain
occupations later in life. Physicians, lawyers, real-estate brokers and pilots
all take standardized tests to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge
required for their professions. The use of standardized tests would not be so
widespread if they were and unreliable measure of a students’ education. I still, however, I still,
however, maintain my view on standardized testing. I do not think
that students should be required to take these tests. As a compromise, schools
could publish the results of certain tasks that measure a set of standards
similar to the Common Core Standards and formative assessments that scaffold to
them, and the public would have a good idea of what students are good at and
what they’re not good at.

 

However, in the big picture,
standardized tests obstruct the overall purpose of education. Teaching to the
test gives students a myriad of knowledge that they will only need for a short
amount of time and is put in the place of other meaningful
subjects. Education
should be about learning to think critically and to be better able to handle
life after graduation, not learning tips and tricks for one test. Just
think about how many tests you will take in your lifetime. Is one test really
worth all the trouble? Will you really remember the material the test
contained? Education should be about learning to think
critically and to be better able to handle life after graduation, not learning
tips and tricks for one test. I’ll leave you with a quote from
Albert Einstein; “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one
has learned in school”.

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