An Open Letter To The Administrators About How Unnecessary Standardized Testing Is
Dear District Administrators,
For over fifty years students have been wasting their valuable time in the classroom. From weeks of preparation to the unfairness of the standardized test results towards teachers, something needs to be changed. You have been placing a burden on students and teachers for long enough, and it is time to put it to an end. To understand this debate, people must understand the intended purpose for standardized testing, which was to gather feedback on students in a consistent way in comparison to other students and schools. This has changed drastically. Years ago, standardized tests were used to place students in their classes or to decide which students needed additional help. Today the test scores are used to measure success or failure of students, teachers, and schools. Test scores are quoted by newspapers so schools and educators are held accountable for educational results and student performance. These tests leave a negative effect on students and their learning environment because they take time away from necessary topics that need to be covered in class. In addition, the testing presents an inaccurate representation of the students’ and teachers’ abilities. Although the intentions of the administrators giving out these tests may be for the best, it is not working. I am Ashley Kaufman, a college freshman, and as a student who went through years and years of standardized testing, I know a change needs to be made.
Administrators emphasize an overreliance on these tests creating toxicity in students’ educations. When forcing students to participate in standardized testing, a negative learning environment is created. In a 2016 article published in The Morning Call by Jerry Oleksiak, special education teacher and president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, it is brought to our attention that the “overreliance on standardized testing distracts students and teachers and is utterly toxic to the culture of learning in our public schools”. Are you okay with the toxicity you are creating for students as well as teachers? By overemphasizing and heavily relying on these tests, teachers are feeling pressure to teach to the test so their students can have high scores. They have to narrow the curriculum and only teach the subjects on the test. Students are feeling distracted by the testing and they are more worried about their scores than learning educational content. The test scores set up a competitive environment for students and teachers and the real learning and teaching are neglected. This is the toxicity Oleksiak is talking about.
Students and teachers have become preoccupied with the preparation and time devoted to testing and time is taken away from teaching and learning the actual curriculum of the classroom. Teachers could be instructing their students and perhaps getting them ahead, but this cannot be done with standardized testing in place. When looking at teachers and their responsibilities to the standardized tests, it is simply incredible. Writers from the Centre Daily Times contend that the time students spend taking these tests and the time teachers spend preparing the students is an issue altogether. The time put into this test can take weeks away from school time (“Time To End Toxic Testing Culture”). This is a major loss of valuable education time. In order for students to succeed and reach the ultimate goal of passing to the next grade level, they must be well educated and up to date on the given curriculum. By making students take standardized tests, they are at a disadvantage. Teachers must first teach students all of the topics on the test in order to prepare them for the questions coming their way. Then they are required to use valuable class time to allow the students to actually take the test.
These tests are not a true and accurate representation of the students’ abilities as well as the teachers’ teaching skills. Have you ever had a bad day and performed lower on a task? What happens if a student is having a bad day or has test anxiety and does not perform his or her best on a standardized test? Student performance should be measured by a variety of criteria. If a student does not perform well on the test due to an off day, does that mean that the teacher is not doing his or her job? My answer to all of these questions is no. Abe Feuerstein and Sue Ellen Henry, associate professors of Education at Bucknell University, reveal that “in Pennsylvania, at least 30 percent of a teacher’s performance evaluation is based upon the standardized test scores of students in the classroom and in the school overall” (Feuerstein and Henry, 1). Is this fair? If a group of students who normally do very well in school are not good test takers and happen to perform lower on their standardized test, this automatically determines that the teacher is not doing a good job teaching. In reality, all it means is that the students might not be good test takers, but they can do well in school and the teacher is most definitely doing a proper job.
It is hard to accept standardized testing when the stakes for them have increased dramatically. Initially, the intended purpose for standardized testing was to gather feedback and articulate student achievement in comparison to other students and other schools. In a 2014 article published in Chalkbeat: Education News In Context, it was acknowledged that feedback is not the goal of these tests anymore. School funding, evaluation, teacher pay, firings, and monitoring the students have become the focus of these tests (Faculty of P.S, 167). The stakes are too high for standardized testing when they are used to make major decisions about students and teachers. This puts more pressure on teachers for their students to perform well. Sometimes student performance is out of the teacher's hands, which displays a direct negative effect of the teacher's reputation. The change from standardized tests’ intended purpose to what is happening now is a dramatic one that is doing nothing but hurting students, teachers and schools.
On the other side of the debate on standardized testing, some feel that these tests are beneficial to both the student and the teacher. It was argued by Gail Gross, author of an article in the Huffington Post, that the test presents important “diagnostic information about what each child is learning in relation to what he has been taught and that these tests are the one and only way a teacher can truly monitor students and their success and ultimately find a way to help them if they are struggling” (Gross, 1). This statement is baffling. Standardized tests do provide teachers and schools with diagnostic information about students, but they are not the only way to monitor students on their knowledge. Perhaps giving a typical math test in class to check in on how students are grasping math concepts would be useful. Using a standardized test to determine a student's overall growth is not beneficial to receiving an accurate representation of the individual students. Many other factors must go into this determination.
Overall, standardized testing is a waste of time for both the students and the teachers. It creates a negative learning environment in the classroom for students and teachers. The preparation for these tests takes away from the necessary learning in the classroom, limiting the student’s educational advancement. Also, the results of the test create false representations of teachers and teachers should not be held to such high stakes based on a student's performance. Furthermore, these tests create false determinations of the student's abilities, which is misleading. Administrators, if you really think that these tests are benefiting students and their learning, then your perception of schooling is misguided. Students should not be judged on one test and teachers should not be evaluated based on one test score. In order to improve the education system and fully prepare students for the following grade, standardized testing must be abolished.
By The Faculty of P.S. 167. "Is Testing Taking over Our Schools? An Entire Faculty Says Yes." Chalkbeat: Education News in Context. N.p., 2 Apr. 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
Fletcher, Dan. "A Brief History of Standardized Testing - TIME." Time. N.p., 11 Dec. 2009. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.
Henry, Sue Ellen, and Abe Feuerstein. "My Turn: Problems with High Stakes Standardized Testing." The Daily Item. N.p., 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.
Oleksiak, Jerry. "Jerry Oleksiak: Standardized Tests Toxic to Culture of Learning in Schools." The Morning Call. N.p., 31 Oct. 2016. Web.
"Their View | Time to End Toxic Testing Culture." Centre Daily Times. N.p., 3 Nov. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.