Congratulations, me; that is the longest title I have ever written for a blog post. It is exactly ten words long, which is fitting because I now present ten crazy things about standardized tests in primary and secondary schools. This list should be enough to spark a revolution. But if you’re still not sure you want to dedicate your life to changing the system, please refer to the links at the end for further incitement.
- Standardized tests assume that children come standardized, which they don’t. Not only is there a huge developmental span between children in the same grade, but it’s normal and healthy for there to be a span. They aren’t factory widgets, folks, they are developing humans.
- Teachers and administrators hate (if they are honest with themselves) the tests. They know every one of the points in this list. If professional educators don’t like the tests, perhaps they aren’t the best tools for educators to use.
- These tests cause a great deal of anxiety in children. It is abusive to force kids to sit for hours filling in the little oval bubbles in high-stakes tests. Often, children are not allowed to go to the bathroom while testing. The atmosphere of the classroom becomes oppressive, which is contrary to best teaching practices.
- These tests cause anxiety in teachers, party because they know they are judged by their students’ scores, and partially because the tests interfere with teaching. This is an important point: State tests take about a week out of the time teachers have to deliver the curriculum. More tests means less learning.
- Tests are causing teachers to teach superficially. Instead of the critical thinking skills that come from investigating something in depth, children are taught to quickly answer questions phrased in test language.
- These tests are not good assessments of student learning. They are, by their nature, unauthentic. Take math for example. Do we teach math so that kids will know math, or do we teach math so that kids will have math as a tool to solve problems in life? If the latter is the goal, students should be tested by seeing if they can comparison shop, not if they can compare the angles of geometric shapes.
- State tests send a bad message to our children. We should be modeling integrity, standing up for our beliefs. Instead, we are presenting children with the following subtext: We don’t believe in what we are doing but the people in charge tell us to do it so we will follow along like sheep. (I apologize to any sheep who may be reading this.)
- The time frame is wack. It takes so long to get the results that these tests can’t be used to inform teaching in the moment. They can only be used to help the next crop of kids do better on tests.
- The tests are at variance with Special Education law (IDEA) by forcing students with disabilities to take the same tests as other students.
- More and more, standardized tests scores are used to judge and even force teachers out of the profession. Since the tests don’t measure student learning, we may be losing teachers who are good for our kids.
My fear is that our schools are being transformed into testing factories. We will have generation of kids who are really great at taking standardized tests. This won’t help them in life, unless they choose “Test Tutor” as a profession. Would you like more arguments against standardized testing? Visit Alphie’s Kohn’s article, and this article from The National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
For more thoughts on educational philosophy, click the daisy: