Standardized Testing in Education
Grace Theobald, Division 2, 11th grade #ws18e-s3d2

In today’s world, standardized testing has become an integral learning tool used in most schools. Many have experienced the stress of a last minute cram session and relate to the trepidation felt when waiting for those important scores to arrive in crisp, white envelopes. However unpleasant students may find their testing experience to be, very few people have made progress in drastically changing the flawed standardized testing dynamic of today’s education system. Although many people have tried to justify the standardized testing system in our schools, there is evidence that these scores are hurting students more than helping them.

Standardized testing first began to emerge as a concept in 1838, when many educators considered making the transition from oral tests to written tests. However, it wasn’t until 1890 that Charles Eliot, President of Harvard, contemplated a system of tests that would allow colleges to assess each student. This led to the creation of the College Entrance Examination Board, which released their first official standardized tests in nine subjects during the year of 1901. While these tests worked satisfactorily back then, our modern world requests change to compensate for the larger amount of material teachers are required to cover.

Lately, it has become more apparent that educators are teaching the material to sync with the test instead of teaching to further inform students on the subject they are learning, which is the primary goal in the education system. The circumstances that allow teachers to be evaluated by their students’ test scores are the main culprit of this phenomenon commonly referred to as teaching to the test. This concept was mainly brought on by the passing of The No Child Left Behind Act, which has tightened the governments’ control over education. While this policy has improved some aspects of our education system, it objectifies the students’ learning and limits the teaching styles that educators employ for their students. This action of reducing a teacher’s power in their own classroom clearly defines why we should be eliminating the standardized test in favor of the teacher’s better judgement.

Commonly included in this concept of standardized testing is the historical figure Henry David Thoreau, an esteemed social reformist and transcendentalist in the 1800s. While heavily rooted in his beliefs for civil reform, he did express a special interest in education. Thoreau opposed learning from books and memorization, which was becoming more popular in schooling at the time. Instead, he emphasized human activity as the key to learning and held education as a concept higher than just ordinary schooling, a point that most teachers would agree with. This strengthens the argument that personal experience should be used instead of standardized testing as a viable solution for the future of education.

A problem that continues to escalate is the issue of cheating on standardized testing to get a better score. If schools were to focus their studies on more intrinsic learning styles and less testing-based learning styles, they would be able to reduce the number of students who cheat to improve their chances of getting into a top tier school. A proper school system would be centered around individualization and learning instead of tests and hyper-organized learning. This system would encourage students to actively enjoy learning the subject while extinguishing the threat of bad test scores consistently held above them.

Many people express concern about the growing number of people who want to end standardized testing. They believe that testing is necessary for students to learn and evolve into a functioning educated adult. However, it has already been proven that schooling systems can not only survive the nullification of standardized testing, but thrive under a new banding system that praises equal education. Finland is found to have vastly improved in reading, math, and science literacy over the past decade due to their teachers evolving from serving the classroom as a whole to serving the students as individuals. Students are only required to take one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school and never have to compete for rankings in a district level based on the results of these scores. These students are not made into a competition for the highest GPA, but into people who require education through experience and through personal teaching, a fact that characterizes a non-testing atmosphere.

One of the largest concerns over standardized testing is the lack of educational diversity provided on the actual tests. Students are being scored with numbers, taking no account into their personal arguments or decisions. With the increasing amount of critical thinking tests, it has been found that certain students do not think as the test creators wish them to, coming up with different ways to answer the questions given in a way not thought of before. The tests are designed in such a way as to limit the creative minds of children and force them into a conforming position.

A further problem within standardized tests does not lay within the logistics, but within the personal stresses it relays upon the students who are forced to take them. These students are keenly aware of the high stakes attached to state exams and overwork themselves just to get a decent score. This issue can be further worsened by unchangeable student factors that include a limited knowledge of the language or any mental disorders that may conflict with development in education. While there has been several attempts to account for these factors, there is no plausible way to ensure every student gets a test suited to their needs. This lack of testing flexibility cannot be ignored, especially when these tests determine the students’ future.

We should be encouraging emotional and mental growth through education, not promoting an unhealthy lifestyle where the only thing that matters is success. Teaching children according to their learning styles should be a priority in the educational world and we can start by eradicating mandatory standardized testing.
Shared publiclyView activity