So, you think problems are in other people’s schools, really? As a person with a strong passion to see students succeed in learning and truly be ready for the world they face, I continue to be amazed!! As a former teacher, I am saddened! I challenge every reader to check and verify the next claim. Currently in most schools across the US, the school year is winding down. What is truly remarkable is that many, if not most of our schools, will spend a great percentage of the time remaining conducting standardized testing. Depending on the school, grade level and location, the final few weeks of school will focus primarily on preparing for, setting up and conducting these tests!
Some ask, so what’s the problem? What about learning!? I ask every reader to verify the next statement as well. We award students education credits in the form of Carnegie Units and the accepted standard for that, at the secondary level (K-12, for non-educators), is 150 contact hours. That is 180 days at 50 minutes per day, of learning (lecture), to qualify. Required, standardized testing, is now taking up at least 25 hours and up to 35 hours of learning time per school! That is just seat time and doesn’t include the “additional” time invested by educators to meet all of the rules of these tests! All of this to theoretically demonstrate that a student is ready to move to the next grade level or as a qualifier to enter a college or university. At the best, they demonstrate that students have learned to lowest level of academic attainment (knowledge), or that the student is good at taking written tests!
I still don’t see the problem, some of you say! We are putting so much stress on our students as a result. We are telling them that they must score well or they will not be successful. We are telling them that if they don’t score high on these tests, they won’t be able to get in the best schools. In some states like mine, we tell them that if they don’t score well on these tests and keep their grades good, they won’t get scholarship (Hope Scholarship) monies to pay for their university education. Others are told if you don’t pass this test, you will be held back or you won’t pass this grade level. Success, even survival, in education is now attached to these tests. These issues notwithstanding, we are also handicapping a segment of our student population. We are also likely making them feel like failures because of this misaligned priority! Many of our students, especially male students, don’t perform as well on written tests. Lastly, there are very intelligent, well learned students, that pressure themselves to the point that they don’t perform well on the tests either.
And….by the way, what about the teachers, counselors, and staff!? I know firsthand of teachers so afraid of doing something wrong, in and around, this testing that they are nervous wrecks! I hear of guidance counselors (now test jockeys) so afraid of mishandling these tests, they put off students in various forms of crisis during school! This because they are so concerned about the handling of these tests, even just during the preparation to administer the tests! Truly sad and remarkable! There are many very public cases of teachers resorting to cheating either out of fear of losing their jobs or because additional pay is attached to the results of these tests! Again, SO, SO, sad!
The end justifies the means, right!? Even the end isn’t very positive! We have very frustrated business people because they are getting new workers that aren’t well prepared! Even students with degrees quite often can’t problem solve or deal with their fellow workers! If you are in doubt, ask your HR people or check with the front-line managers or supervisors that have to work with these young employees. I get reports of frustrated business people that feel as though their employees only know how to take tests. So, at the end of the day, why do we keep doing this? Some would say to collect data and show we are doing. Others might even say that it is to make education companies a lot of money. I would not attempt at the motive, but I will say it is time to rethink the whole standardized test approach! “Winner takes all” testing is hurting our young people, our teachers, counselors and ultimately our businesses!!
This blame for this can’t be laid at the feet of most of our teachers and counselors but rather at those that continue to protect the way we have been doing things, the status quo!