The Dilemma of Standardized Testing

As Mrs. Willett would say, testing season has arrived. From the TAKS to the SAT, the spring semester of high school is filled with an abundance of standardized testing.

When students returned from Christmas vacation, they were met with their first standardized test in the second week of school. This test was a benchmark, designed to gauge student performance for the actual TAKS test to be taken next week.

Of course, it’s necessary to be able to measure and track student performance, but these standardized tests are not an accurate accessment. Instead of measuring how much a student learns in the classroom each year, these tests have become the basis for all curriculum – gone are the days of actually learning useful skills. Instead, we are taught specifically how to answer TAKS questions.

With each test, an immense amount of pressure is placed on students to succeed. For, if they’re to fail a TAKS test, they may not get to move up in grade level the following school year. Doing poorly on an SAT or ACT exam could mean a dream crushed for college-bound students.

In the real world, we won’t be taking TAKS tests to earn a living, instead we will need the skills we should’ve been taught. It’s not the fault of our teachers or our administrators. No, it’s the fault of the Texas Education Agency.

By opting to measure student, teacher and campus performance through standardized testing, TEA is taking the easy way out. The capabilities of students and staff are not reflected from the results of just a handful of tests taken each spring. Beyond that, the agency is taking up and wasting valuable class time with time spent teaching how to take this one, specific test.

Although TEA has acknowledged the need for changing the current method of measuring student performance, they are simply looking to save face by converting from one standardized test to another. As we’ve already seen with the conversion from TAAS to TAKS, new standardized tests won’t change anything.

So, instead of simply making and giving out tests, the state should establish an expected curriculum, and then move toward a more open-ended testing methodology.

Monitors from the state should examine blind samples to ensure teacher accuracy, but shouldn’t establish which projects, assessments and essays should be examined.

As the United States falls lower and lower in international education ratings, it is necessary to change our current system.
We must evolve from simply teaching test-taking skills to actually teaching information and higher-level thinking capabilities.

– The Norseman Staff

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