Children are More than Test Scores!

Last week I was at my son’s elementary school for a meeting with his teacher.  She began to talk about how important it was for him to be ready for the PSSAs (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests). I told her that not only did I find this type of assessment irrelevant to his education, but also inaccurate.  I even suggested I’d rather he didn’t participate in taking them. A look of confusion came across her face, like she hadn’t even thought about having a choice in this matter.

Standardized testing has been a crucial aspect of the No Child Left Behind act that has been introduced by the George W. Bush administration in 2002. Each state is required to create assessment tests and yearly progress reports in order to receive federal funding. This has been a top down policy that was decided in Washington with little to no involvement of students, teachers, and parents that have been affected by it.  Supposedly, such standardized tests were expected to not only provide accurate assessments of student achievement but also measure the effectiveness of teachers as well.  But a decade after the policy’s implementation, there has been no proof of its effectiveness.  Rather, standardized testing has reduced education to acquiring skills that merely prep for the test.

Comparing U.S. students to those from such high-achieving countries as Finland, Korea, UK, and Singapore, Linda Darling-Hammond argues that American students are “the most tested” in the world. She finds that not only are students in these countries minimally tested but they also rarely take multiple-choice exams.  She further claims that spending so much time on improving test taking skills takes away time from effective teaching and critical thinking skills that cannot be measured by such tests.

Yet, public protests against standardized testing are rare. Many teachers find themselves in a difficult position if they seriously contest the system that promotes “teaching to the test.” Should they refuse to participate in the standardized tests imposed by the state, they risk poor evaluations, charges of insubordination, possible suspension, and even loss of their jobs. To a certain extent, then, many teachers—perhaps even a majority—are forced to implement standardized tests and teaching practices that they not only despise but know are against common sense and the real educational needs of their students.

While many teachers may be discouraged from actively protesting the standardized testing movement, the teachers of Garfield High School in Seattle are just doing that…by not participating in the mandated standardized tests called MAPS (Measures of Academic Progress) and they are not the only ones. Over 130 professors and researchers from various universities, including Harvard, Tuft, and Brandeis, have spoken out publicly against standardized testing. From New York City to Texas and Florida, parents, teachers, and elementary and middle school students are beginning to express their frustration with slogans like “KIDS ARE NOT A TEST SCORE.” Garfield High’s defiance of this policy clearly shows the rest of us that we do have a voice in education policy as stakeholders especially in a nation that we call a democracy.

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8 thoughts on “Children are More than Test Scores!

  1. Agree! It is unfortunate that the tests scores becoming much more important than the individuality of children. And my personal experience of taking GRE made me think how accurate did it measure my abilities? Why is it so important in GRE to be able to produce 1000 words in 30 minutes? Perhaps, some people are slow writers and can produce much better essay if given more time. But, GRE along with other tests involved in a huge business, and I believe it will be very difficult to challenge tests since they involve millions of $. But thank you very much for raising such an important issue!

  2. Fauzia,
    Great piece! In addition to the standardized tests, I would even question the ridiculous amount of WEEKLY tests kids take but thats another post 🙂 I am really curious to know if she actually gave you a response though about your son not participating – other than the puzzled face (which is hilarious because it sounds like she obviously hasn’t given much thought about the test either nor does she find anything wrong with it which is scary). Aside from all of these reasons on why this test is ridiculous, it sets students up to think they are stupid! I remember my students saying that they didn’t know all of the material on the test – mainly because the test is designed so that kids can’t know all the questions essentially since they haven’t finished all the materials from the whole year.

  3. Standardized testing is a fraud designed primarily to funnel public funds into the pockets of private corporations. Look at the people behind the testing industry and you’ll find investment bankers on practically every board. Along with the tests you also have the Common Core Standards, another piece of corporate-mandated education policy. This article gives a good rundown of the problems:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/eight-problems-with-common-core-standards/2012/08/21/821b300a-e4e7-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_blog.html

  4. Wonderful article, Fauzia. When are we going to get it right??? Each administration comes up with their way of messing with our children’s education.

  5. As an educator who enjoyed teaching prior to this testing craze, I can honestly say I am happy to no longer participate in it. It is the enemy of critical thinking and creative expression and has taken the joy, freedom, and creativity out of teaching. Asking students to jump through these absurd hoops, like trained circus animals, and placing teachers on treadmills to prepare them, has taken the joy out of education for all involved.

  6. Thanks, Fatih!
    Marina, you make an excellent point as to how accurately or should we say inaccurately do test like GRE can predict how much you know or how well you will do academically…and why are test like these still a factor in being admitted to college and graduate schools!
    Garine, I feel that there is a growing awareness, and discontent among most teachers regarding standardized testing. That is why I felt so strongly about this piece– we as a society need to question such ineffective laws and demand reform.
    Nancy, I find it truly sad when I hear you and many other teachers express their feelings about how this law has been a factor in transforming education for the worse!

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