This paper extends upon five published articles that feature standardized testing. The articles include information about testing, emphasis of expectations, inclusive education, and special needs students [in the standardized testing world]. Gilmore emphasizes the importance of scores within a classroom as well as the importance of collaboration between students and teachers (2016). The articles elaborate on such topics as well; however, Crowder and Konle’s article concludes many consequences of opting out and shows the lack of fairness within the standardized testing realm (2015). This paper explores many situations and further explains many aspects of state-mandated testing that many people are unaware of.
Standardized testing has become more and more common in today’s schools. This has pushed for schools to prepare students extensively in order to make decent scores on the tests. Standardized testing had very little effect on school instruction until the late 1970s, essentially placing emphasis on in-class, subject specific lessons (Brighton & Callahan, 2002, par. 1). The normalization of tests raises many concerns, thus creating many questions. So, do standardized tests put pressure on just students, just teachers, or both? Ultimately, standardized testing places such an emphasis to do well on both teachers and students; this, unfortunately, places much unnecessary pressure upon individuals.
Effects on Students
Standardized testing has become routine for students in all grades. From the very start of a child’s education, he or she is given aptitude tests. These tests supposedly show how well the student will or will not do in future education, thus placing pressure on a child to do well on such a test–even when he or she cannot fully comprehend the importance of the test. Additionally, students encounter standardized testing for the entirety of their school career; throughout elementary education, secondary education, and postsecondary education, students are still expected to take standardized tests, with emphasis of doing well hung high above their heads.
Shortened Class Time In the article “Gumbo Ya-Ya or, What Pearson Can’t Hear: Opt-Out Standardized Testing, and Student Surveillance,” Zan Crowder and Stephanie Konle state that a Florida bill was passed to limit the time students spent on ‘state-mandated’ tests; prior to the passage of this bill, “schools administered tests on one hundred and seventy-two of the one hundred and eighty calendar school days” (2015, p. 287). While teachers have tried inspiring students to enjoy testing, educational time should be used for educational purposes–not to prepare for tests that measure what one had learned though he or she has not had proper time to learn. Students, however, can be held back when they are not inspired to enjoy testing, a feat that is arguably impossible to accomplish. Standardized testing is an independent work, separating students and teachers alike; however, working together toward a common goal is hardly farfetched in helping students become successful (Gilmore, 2016, p. 388). Additionally, if a student does not do well on a standardized test, he or she is held back from many opportunities in his or her life–ultimately holding him or her back from possibilities that could improve his or her life continually. Until the late 1970s, though, standardized testing had little to no effect on classroom instruction (Brighton & Callahan, 2002, par. 2). Standardized tests were rarely used, and there was virtually no influence of the content of tests within the classroom. Such a fact should emphasize how little testing preparation is actually needed during class time.
Effects on Students’ Futures Standardized testing has become a major deciding factor in measuring the ability of students throughout the past several years. When a student is tested, he or she must understand the content; understanding is key, yet state-mandated testing does not allow for understanding (Gilmore, 2016, p. 390). When a test requires a student to have memorized information he or she has learned throughout his or her school career, memorization truly is key; application of knowledge is not the skill a student needs to know. According to Zan Crowder and stephanie Konle, students, or learners, are defined as an object of measurement rather than being considered people (2015, p. 286). This implies that the measurable goals [as a ‘learner’] are the only educative goals possible. Crowder and Konle argue that “only through Pearson’s conscientious assistance may the lives of its customers progress toward sanctioned success” (2015, p. 286). Additionally, a student must obtain collaboration skills in order to apply them throughout his or her life. The skill of collaboration is critical for secondary educators, yet it does not stop at the secondary level (Kozik, Cooney, Vinciguerra, Gradel, & Black, 2009, p. 78). Standardized testing does not generally allow for collaboration skills to be taught and/or utilized, pushing students further away from a vital skill in one’s life.
The Opt-Out Movement As one reporter recently wrote in U.S. News and World Report, “the opt-out movement is driven by ‘elite progressives’ who are ‘ridiculous, selfish, and more than a little hypocritical” (Crowder & Konle, 2015, p. 287). Many states, such as Florida and Kentucky, do not even allow for anyone to opt out of testing–consequently, more and more states are doing the same. Students who do not take a state-mandated test are given a score of zero rather than not being counted at all; this essentially coerces students into taking such tests. However, experience has proven to help students learn. When forced to take a test, a student oftentimes has little to no experience on such a test; yet prior experience would help him or her get a better score on a test with so much emphasis placed on it (Gilmore, 2016, p. 392). While testing preparation is usually offered or incorporated into the normal ‘curriculum,’ it does not [always] suffice when the actual test is taken. As previously stated, standardized testing had little to no effect on instruction within a classroom; thus, emphasis was not strongly placed upon preparation, scores, or a student’s future (Brighton & Callahan, 2002, par. 2). If a student is unable or unwilling to test, yet opting out is not a fair option, the education system seems to be jeopardized; incorporating knowledge into curriculum does not necessarily prove to be beneficial in all cases, whereas allowing a student or his or her parent(s) to opt out of such a test could improve the student’s life and a particular school’s reputation.
Effects on Teachers
Many programs have been created throughout many years to include all children in both education and general societal norms (e.g.: No Child Left Behind). These programs, while beneficial at times, can prove to have challenging requirements–especially with inclusive education. Standardized testing is one obstacle of inclusive education. In addition, teachers are often punished if students receive bad scores on a particular subject. Educators are also required to include hours of test preparation during class time–resulting in much lost time throughout each school year.
Inclusive Education While including special needs students in the education setting has proven to be a challenge, fewer students with special needs are educated in segregated settings and more inclusive opportunities exist (Kozik et. al, 2009, p. 78). However, many barriers still exist: planning time, concerns about caseload, inadequate preparation, and so on. Complexity of schooling at a secondary level has been a challenge in means of inclusion. Gifted students themselves have identified many concerns and complaints about school experiences regarding heightened emphasis on standardized tests. The most common responses included boredom and disengagement within a classroom with frequent practice for state tests (Brighton and Callahan, 2002, p. 9). One student reported, “If I liked what I was studying I would study very hard, but we are just doing the same thing over and over. It is so boring.” Boredom within classrooms is a common obstacle for all students; at any level, students get bored with reiteration of the same information they have already been taught numerous times throughout their school careers. Most educators agree that motivation of their students is a critical task of teaching (Mucherah & Yoder, 2008, p. 214). When being taught the same information, students tend to wander from what they are learning; in a gifted classroom setting, motivation can be a deciding factor in whether or not a student is successful. Through mandating tests and forcing students to learn information they are not interested in or reiterating what they have already taught, most, if not all, motivation is lost–causing one ultimate goal of educators to not be achieved.
Shortened Class Time Most states spend a large portion, if not a majority, of the school year preparing for tests. In fact, some states have had to issue laws shortening the amount of time schools require educators to prepare students for standardized tests. Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a Florida House Bill (7069) into law which limits hours spent on ‘state-mandated tests.’ One school in Florida spent one hundred and seventy-two days of a one hundred and eighty day school year administering tests (Crowder & Konle, 2015, p. 287). If students are required to spend so much time throughout a single school year preparing for and taking standardized tests, he or she cannot be expected to know information outside of the material fit for testing; this creates a barrier between the student and the real world, potentially standing in the way of his or her future. Many professors agree that standardized testing is unreliable and, as a result of the tests taking up so much time, they become an ‘automatic misguided attack on grades’ (Gilmore, 2016, p. 393). If scores are, indeed, unreliable, the vast amount of time taken in order to prepare for tests is, ultimately, wasted. The time that is spent teaching students the same information for a single test could instead be spent teaching subject-specific content, essentially broadening a student’s knowledge–another ultimate goal of school; however, with testing requirements, it is often difficult to achieve the level of education that teachers set out to instill on their students. Additionally, the focus on test preparation could jeopardize inclusive education as well. When special needs students need to be taught the same way as every other student, they are taken away from an inclusive classroom setting; collaboration skills that have been emphasized as a critical skill are lost when educators are forced to teach students repetitive information (Kozik et al, 2009, p. 78).
Punishment for Low Scores While many challenges arise for educators during times of testing, one issue stands out: punishment. When students do not do well on tests, educators gain negative reputations. Teachers are responsible for many aspects of their students’ lives; Pearson Publishing spies on schoolchildren’s digital postings, breaking the right of privacy (Crowder & Konle, 2015, p. 285). This is done to keep test questions following a common core guideline from being spread outside of the test it appears on. Teachers are, unfortunately, unfairly reflected through their students test scores. While grades within a specific class accurately show progress, they are instead evaluated on how students do within a specific portion of a test (Gilmore, 2016, p. 394). Since collaboration is increasingly important in the classroom setting, it is essential for students and teachers alike to be able to work together to succeed and motivate one another (Kozik et. al, 2009, p. 78).
Many great points are made that advocate state-mandated tests; this does not, however, excuse the drawbacks of such tests. I believe a student’s intelligence should be gauged solely on that individual’s process–not through a test with ridiculous standards that a student is forced to memorize information in order to succeed. Standardized testing ultimately jeopardizes an individual’s future–both students and teachers alike. Placing such emphasis on a person to do well on something he or she may have little to no motivation for is unfair and unreliable–yet schools still rely on good standardized test scores in order to determine a student’s intelligence, aptitude, and potential. State officials in charge of state-mandated testing, common core, and more school-related topics should consider the major drawbacks of standardized testing and compare them to advantages. If advantages do exist, the drawbacks still heavily outweigh them, making tests unfair, unreliable, and, undeniably cruel.
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