Solution to Our Failing Testing Program
Students will spend more time this year being tested and preparing for these tests than they will spend creatively learning multiple subjects. Our current way of evaluating a student’s intelligence and a teacher’s ability to teach is crippling our education program, but most importantly our students. Something must be done immediately to stop this idea of focusing on these standardized tests instead of teaching students to get further in life through multiple subjects and means. Standardized tests can be replaced with either computer systems like Dreambox, Khan Academy or Scholastics that keep track of student’s growth over time, or with using a student portfolio compilation of evaluating students. These two choices can also be used in combination with each other to get the best results.
Before we discuss the replacements for standardized testing, we have to discuss the issues with our current standardized testing system. First, the format of these tests are primarily multiple choice, which causes a simplistic way of thinking because there is only one right answer. This is not realistic for the real world, and “America is facing a “creativity crisis,” as standardized testing and rote learning “dumb down” curricula and jeopardize the country’s economic future.”
Second, teachers have changed their way of teaching and have conceded and started teaching to the test, which is creating a boring atmosphere in the classroom that lacks creative thinking. The standardized tests have caused an extreme decrease in the amount of higher-order thinking, time spent on out-of-the-box projects, and creative thinking. Higher thinking helps prepare students for real life. Problems faced in life are not answered by a multiple choice format, but rather by a solution with just the problem in front of you. Standardized testing does not take into account external factors. It only takes in the student’s performance on one specific day instead of over the course of the year. Many students have test anxiety that also hinders their performance.
Standardized tests evaluate every student in one way, thinking that there is a test that is a one size fits all. The picture above shows how ridiculous this way of thinking is. One would never test all animals’ capabilities based on one test because animals are all so different. Students are the exact same way, with each student exhibiting their own strengths and weaknesses. Students who test well and are well versed on the basics are the ones that will excel on tests.
The standardized tests have not improved student achievement overall, but has actually made it worse over time. “After No Child Left Behind (NCLB) passed in 2002, the US slipped from 18th in the world in math on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to 31st place in 2009, with a similar drop in science and no change in reading” We are dropping in world ratings in 2 of the 3 subjects that are tested, so why are we still doing them since they are not helping. The main reason they were put in place was to move America up in these rankings while ensuring students get equal education.
The people who argue for standardized testing have a couple of reasons for their view. First, they say that it makes teachers and schools accountable. Even if this is true they are only being held accountable for the scores on these tests and not on how much their students actually learned through the year. Second, they argue that the tests allow for students from different schools, districts and states to be compared to each other. It is true that the comparison is there, but that does not mean it is a fair comparison. It’s much like comparing apples to oranges, especially because different states give completely different tests. And lastly, supporters of standardized testing believe the scoring of the tests are objective, unlike grades given by the teacher in the classroom. They argue that often times a teacher’s test is subjective and not simply multiply choice, or that a teacher may use favoritism by looking at a name before grading a test.
There are serious issues with the way we have changed our education system to focus on standardized testing, and we need to find a better way to evaluate students without compromising our education system. As seen from this Facebook survey, many people believe that standardized testing is not the right choice, so what is the appropriate alternative? There are three various possible solutions to the dilemma of standardized testing.
The first solution is to replace the tests with electronic learning programs like Khan Academy, Dreambox or Scholastics. All of these programs use different learning tools and games to allow students to practice different skills, and they keep track of all students work including their progress and how long it took them to see that progress. It gives the teachers and schools the opportunity to eliminate the anxiety of “stop and test,” and instead evaluate the student’s growth over the whole year. Also, it works alongside a teacher’s curriculum instead of replacing their curriculum with test prep and testing. Here is a sample of a whole class report and then a student report from Dreambox.
These programs do not simply show when a student masters a topic, but it also shows how quickly they mastered it, how many times they went in, how persistent they were and also looks at the big-picture factors. These programs would require future testing and improvements to make sure the software would properly evaluate student’s growth, but they do show promise.
The second possible solution would be to replace the tests with a portfolio-based assessment. This assessment would have 3 parts, which would show the growth and development of the student through the year, unlike the standardized tests that show a student’s performance on one day. This assessment would also show teachers performance, because if the teacher is doing well, then there will be a vast improvement in the students’ work throughout the semester.
The three parts would be as follows:
- A collection of the student’s work throughout the year.
- A reflection written by the students on their work.
- The teacher’s assessment of each student’s work
The collection of the students work shows evidence of the teachers assessment of the students growth. The reflection helps students think deeper about the process they went through and what they have learned. Thinking deeper about these key issues helps improve student learning. The teachers would then examine the portfolio and then evaluate the work based on a standard scoring guide to make it as objective as possible.
When it comes to teacher accountability and professional improvements, a “random sample” of the portfolios could then be examined. An independent third party board would review a sample of randomly selected portfolios, which would be an objective review of the students work and ultimately would evaluate the teacher’s effectiveness as well. It pushes teachers to reflect more consistently on the quality of student work in their classroom.
The last solution would be to do a combination of both solutions. Students would do a portfolio with in-classroom papers and projects, a reflection on their work, and also use the electronic programs. This would give a wider range of the student’s growth from many different types of tasks. This would hit most, if not all, of the styles of learning. Teachers would still do an evaluation, but would also put into consideration the students’ progress on the electronic programs.
Standardized testing has inhibited students from thinking abstractly, which is not only affecting their results when they get into the real world, but it is also causing America to fall in the educational rankings instead of competing with the best. There needs to be some sort of evaluation process and earmark in place to evaluate a student’s learning, but standardized testing does not appear to be the answer. Three different solutions were discussed with the last one being a combination of the first two. With your help we can make a change in our education system, so that a student’s creative thinking is not hindered but enhanced. Money spent by our government to study this issue would be a wise use of taxpayer funds in the long run. The future of our nation’s youth is in the balance and this issue needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
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