Standardized Testing Hurting Our Students

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that students are increasingly unprepared for college, and many blame standardized tests. It should come as no surprise to any teacher that our nation’s focus on standardized testing is hurting our students’ success in college. Instead of teaching real critical thinking skills and writing, we teach to the test out of fear. Ideally, if we teach objectives required by our curriculum, students should be prepared for standardized tests; however, many of us with jobs and schools on the line because of NCLB are too afraid not to teach to the test.

One of the things I’ve noticed since teaching at a private school is that students are much better served by learning how to write well than by taking a language arts test mandated by the state. Georgia has high school graduation tests, as well as writing tests in the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades, and end-of-course tests. Over time, the curriculum has been eroded by all the test preps. My students are mandated to take the PSAT and have the option to take the SAT or ACT. Most do, because they are college-bound students. It has been so freeing not to worry about constant tests.

I wish we could figure out how to hold schools accountable through some other means. It would be better for our students, many of whom wind up in remedial classes in college because we have not properly prepared them.

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One thought on “Standardized Testing Hurting Our Students

  1. Amen, sister. I teach college mathematics and by definition, all of our students who come from this state (Indiana) have to have passed the ISTEP, our standardized high school qualifying exam. And yet, every year the background abilities of my students in algebra and basic math gets worse and worse. I think the fixation on standardized testing is creating a mindset in the students that education = testing — information in school is important only insofar as it scores points on tests, and once the test is over that information can be flushed. Some of the students have to take a high-stakes standardized test once every three years starting in the third grade… is it any wonder that they equate education with testing (and that I get reamed on evaluations when I try to teach critical thinking skills because I'm not "telling them what they need to know for the test")? I think the solution might rest in a free-market approach to public schools. First, NCLB ought to be completely repealed and all mandatory standardized tests abolished (saving millions in tax dollars for, well, improving schools…). Then allow families the choice of which public school they'd like to place their children in — or go the whole way and institute a voucher or tax credit system. Schools that have a poor track record of producing capable graduates (which would be based on a solid education, not on a test score) would suffer the loss of students and therefore money because parents would notice how poorly the school is doing and just move their kids elsewhere. Meanwhile schools that do a good job would prosper because of increased patronage. This idea isn't without its flaws but it's better than the status quo, IMO.

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