America’s school system has strayed from the American dream of gifting our youth with the opportunity of a free education. While this sounds like a dream it is not a reality. America’s schools are understaffed and underfunded. America once held the #1 rank in Education and now has been dropped to the unthinkable 16th spot. Our current methodology allows individual states to implement standards, select curriculum programs and set qualification minimums for their teachers. The current hot topic is the unfairness of standardized testing. Educators are experiencing pressure to show their effects on students. Unfortunately, the way a school is judged is based on student performance on standardized achievement tests. A standardized test is any examination that’s administered and scored in a predetermined, standard manner. There are two major kinds of standardized tests: aptitude tests and achievement tests. Standardized aptitude tests predict how well students are likely to perform in an educational setting. For example, the ACT and the SAT are standardized aptitude tests. If a school’s standardized test scores are high, people think the school’s staff is doing their job. If a school’s standardized test scores are low, they see the school’s staff as doing badly.
In either case, because educational quality is being measured wrong, those evaluation of educational quality are wrong. Standardized testing allows for comparisons in schools’ student achievements and accounts teachers for these achievements. These important reasons show why standardized testing is one of the hottest topics in education. Standardized testing has not necessarily improved America’s education system. After No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2002, the US slipped from 18th in the world in math on the Program for International Student Assessment to the measly 31st place in 2009. With a similar drop in science and no improvements in reading. A May 26, 2011, National Research Council report found no evidence test-based incentive programs are working: “Despite using them for several decades, policymakers and educators do not yet know how to use test-based incentives to consistently generate positive effects on achievement and to improve education.” Standardized tests are an unreliable measure of student performance. A 2001 study published by the Brookings Institution found that 50-80% of test score improvements over time were temporary and “caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning…” Standardized tests measure only a small portion of what makes education meaningful.
According to late education researcher Gerald W. Bracey, PhD, qualities that standardized tests cannot measure include “creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity.” School is important because it teaches important life skills but lately schools have been focusing in on teaching to the test. Teaching to the test” is replacing good teaching practices with “drill n’ kill” learning. A five-year University of Maryland study completed in 2007 found “the pressure teachers were feeling to ‘teach to the test'” since NCLB was leading to “declines in teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments, and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum. School is no longer about learning necessary skills for life and the work place it is all about the dreaded standardized tests in May. Instruction time is instead being consumed by test preparation. Some schools use more than 25% of the year’s instruction to test preparation. After New York City’s reading and math scores dropped in 2010, many schools added even more test preparation to avoid being shut down.
Including daily two-and-a-half-hour prep sessions and extra required test practice on vacation days such as fall break and holidays. On Sep. 11, 2002, students at Monterey High School in Lubbock, TX, were prevented from discussing the first anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks because they were too busy with standardized test prep. Standardized testing causes severe stress in younger students. According to education researcher Gregory J. Cizek, anecdotes abound “illustrating how testing… produces gripping anxiety in even the brightest students, and makes young children vomit or cry, or both.” On Mar. 14, 2002, the Sacramento Bee reported that “test-related jitters, especially among young students, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes with instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it.” Make your own opinion for yourself, but it is clear to me. That standardized test are bad news! Students are being unfairly compared. Teachers are being unfairly compared. Because of standardized testing students are no longer receiving the real-life education they need and this needs to change.