Are Standardized Tests Really Helping Our Kids?
According to the Washington Post, today’s kids are taking 112 standardized tests between preschool and 12th grade. This averages out to be about 8 tests a year or 257 hours devoted completely to standardized testing – not counting basic, in-class tests given by teachers.
"A typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten classes and 12th grade, a new Council of the Great City Schools study found. By contrast, most countries that outperform the United States on international exams test students three times during their school careers."
-Lindsey Layton, Washington Post
While tests can be a good measure of student’s progress, are an average of eight standardized tests a year really necessary? Is the stress of so many tests hurting students and teachers alike? We’ll let the professionals do the talking.
"More children today seem to lack the language skills needed to retell a simple story or to use basic connecting words and prepositions. They can’t make a conceptual analogy between, say, the veins on a leaf and the veins in their own hands."
The New Preschool is Crushing Kids, an article, by author and educator, Erika Christakis, brings to light the changes in early education classrooms that common core has brought with it. A preschool environment where teachers must tell their preschoolers to finish their work before they can go play and where Kindergarteners are held back before they have even had a chance to start. Christakis points out that many teachers have stated that although these children are being prepped for school at a young age, they seem “less inquisitive and less engaged than kids of earlier generations.” -Erika Christakis, The Atlantic
Furthermore, these students, who were more prepared for school than their non-preschool-attending piers, had declining attitudes about school by First Grade, and by Second Grade they performed worse on tests measuring literacy, language, and math skills. Kids are actually losing their enthusiasm for learning.
Another example from The Atlantic, The Math-Class Paradox, focuses on the roles students believe they have in math class. Students go to math class with the mindset that they are there to reach answers for any given math problem they are presented with quickly and correctly, NOT to learn about the patterns, ask questions, or work at a comfortable pace.
"Students from an early age realize that math is different from other subjects. In many schools across the U.S., math is less about learning than it is about answering questions and taking tests—performing."
-Jo Boaler, professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education, The Atlantic
This, however, is not a problem caused by the student or the teacher, but standardized testing. Teachers are given too many, diluted math lessons to teach in a certain amount of time, without proper time to delve deep into any certain lesson. Teachers and students alike must be sure they cover all math material that will be on whichever standardized test is coming up next.
Ted Dintersmith, successful venture capitalist turned education advocate, observed in classrooms across the United States and noted what he found to be “irrelevant,” “preparing kids for life,” and school lessons that seemed to “impair life prospects.” He writes in his Washington Post article, A venture capitalist searches for the purpose of school. Here’s what he found, that to his dismay, the irrelevant column filled up quickly with lessons such as, “memorizing the definition of mitosis and conjugating French verbs.” All things important for school and for standardized tests, but not used in real life.many, diluted math lessons to teach in a certain amount of time, without proper time to delve deep into any certain lesson. Teachers and students alike must be sure they cover all math material that will be on whichever standardized test is coming up next.
“Try as I might, though, I couldn’t connect any of this with something important in life.”
-Ted Dintersmith, Washington Post
In his “Preparing Kids for Life” column, he writes that students do have many experiences during their time in school that prepare them for life, such as learning to read, write, and perform core math operations. However, he noted that the most important life skills are learned outside the classroom in after school clubs or athletics.
Furthermore, Dintersmith, noticed that kids are actually impairing their life prospects because of the strict guidelines for what is taught, how it’s taught, and how the children are tested. All of which can inhibit the children’s innovation and creativity.
"Creative expansive thinking turning into narrow, prescriptive “right answers.” Inquisitiveness shriveling up into “Will this be on the test? "
-Ted Dintersmith, Washington Post
So, what does this tell us? That maybe the answer to student academic success doesn’t lie in 257 hours of standardized testing or that children need time devoted to free play and independent discovery to grow into well-rounded individuals. That we should only test our students in moderation with smart and strategic tests, to lighten the burden of needing high test scores to succeed both as a teacher and as a student.