Quality of education should not be evaluated by standard test

by: SKYLER McCLESKY/Staff Writer 

Today, if a school’s standardized test scores are high, people think the school’s teaching staff is effective.

If a school’s standardized test scores are low, they see the school’s faculty and staff as ineffective. However, evaluating by standardized testing is a poor way to measure the success of a school and the students.

Albert Einstein said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it’s stupid.”

A standardized test, by definition, is any examination that is administered and scored in a predetermined, standard manner. There are two major kinds of standardized tests. They are the aptitude test and the achievement test.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and ACT are both aptitude tests and attempt to show how well a high school student will perform in college. Achievement tests are the scores that school facility focuses most on, this test is how the school is evaluated for their effectiveness.

Standardized achievement tests do a wonderful job of supplying the evidence needed to make non-referenced interpretations of student knowledge in relationship to the subjects tested. They do what they are supposed to do. Standardized achievement tests should not be used to evaluate the quality of education. That’s not what they are supposed to do.

Students understand and know that test scores can affect their future. Knowing this, some students have the tendency to try to pass tests by all means necessary. Creativity is a value that standardized tests can’t see. A student who writes a more creative answer in the margins won’t be graded on that, but rather on the letter he or she circles. The creative response that does not follow the format is a wrong response.

Tests also do not take diversity in to consideration. There are wide ranges of differences in the students who are taking the test. There are many different cultural backgrounds, different learning and thinking styles, different family backgrounds, and many other differences. Yet the standardized test treats all these students as if they are identical, and identical to the group that took the same test in years past.

So much emphasis is placed on the results of these tests that teachers are spending more and more time “teaching to the test.” If there is something that is interesting, compelling, useful, or otherwise favorable to the student’s understanding of the world, but it’s not going to be on the test, then there is not any reason to cover that material in the lesson plan. Instead, most classroom time is spent preparing for the test and the test only. For example, because of the No Child Left Behind Law, only reading, math, and science are tested. That means art, social studies, physical education, history, and other subjects are given far less attention now then they used to receive.

Standardized tests create stress. Some kids do well with a certain level of stress, and others fold. So, again, there is not a level playing field. Brain research suggests that too much stress is psychologically and physically harmful. When stress becomes overwhelming, the brain shifts to “fight or flight” response. In this stage, it is impossible to engage in a higher-order thinking process that is required to correctly answer questions on the standardized test.

Students may have a deep-rooted knowledge of a subject but will receive no acknowledgment for it due to low-test scores. If that same student was able to draw a picture, lead a group discussion, or create a hands-on-project, the student could then accurately show his or her knowledge. However, sitting at a desk in a room where only the answers you circle matter, he or she is at a disadvantage and will be penalized for it.

If a student scores well on a test, the teacher and parents assume he or she knows they the material. This may not be true at all. The student could have simply memorized the facts or tricks necessary to do well. Also, some students are naturally gifted in taking tests, while others are not.

Standardized testing creates “winners” and “losers.” The losers get labeled as the low-performing students, and are treated as so. They also tend to suffer from self-esteem issues, which is damaging. The “winning” students get caught up in thinking they have to meet this achievement for the rest of their schooling, which traps even the winners.

Finally, the most important reason that standardized tests are worthless is the time spent taking and trying to study for the tests, when they could be doing something more valuable and actually learning something interesting and relevant.