Professor Shannon Young
1st May, 2015
Too Many Tests
A, B, C, D, or E; which one do you choose? This is a question students know all too well. Students spend countless hours taking standardized tests. Constantly filling in those small bubbles is often what students are taught. No, teachers are not teaching students how to fill in bubbles, but what they are teaching is exactly what is on the test. When teachers do that, it often removes the fun aspect of school. For example, that means only doing notes in science class and having absolutely no labs; which is undeniably the best part of science class. School districts are forcing their students to take these standardized tests several times throughout the course of the school year. These tests are different than your average chapter tests; they often test students over material that hasn’t even been taught yet, and how can you show improvement if you haven’t been taught the material. Simply put, students take too many standardized tests and because of the sheer number of tests students are forced to take, the quality of the students’ education is harmed.
I have experience of too much testing first hand. The high school that I attended for three out of the four years of high school is under a school district that is very attached to their tests. They wanted students to take standardized tests almost every two months. Just recently there was a government standardized test I was forced to take, it was called the AIR test, and I had absolutely no idea what the schools use of this test was. My government teacher did not even have a clue what the school was using this test for. To me this test was a waste of my time that was taken away from me in a more important class. Because there were so many tests, teachers were forced to structure the class around the frequent tests. This structure is very boring to the students and the teachers. When it came to finals, the teachers had no input on the final test. When the teacher has no input, the test often has material that was not taught in the class. Then test scores are low and the district is dissatisfied.
For my freshman year of high school, I was fortunate enough to experience a high school where there were virtually no standardized tests. This school out ranked all other public high schools in the state. In that school you never took any standardized tests, apart from the ACT. Teachers were able to teach however they wanted. And that brought fun and excitement into the classroom. This freedom from the school district helped make school more enjoyable and it also increased student grades, and how much they learned.
It is very simple to see that good schools often do not have excessive amounts of standardized testing. If school districts chose to give fewer assessments, the students would be very much better off. The learning environment would reflect like my first high school, where mostly everyone is excited to learn and want to get good educations. In an argument over “is testing bad?” by Stephanie Schneider, who opposes tests and also Matt Christison, who is for testing; Stephanie Schneider says “Imagining school without standardized testing (or very minimal testing) isn’t too difficult because examples already exist. In fact, in some of the most highly regarded private schools, standardized tests are few and far between.” (Schneider pg.31). Many people agree that fewer tests would better for everyone. The United States is one of the few countries around the world that requires standardized testing for students. The United States are also lagging behind in the international rankings, often we are behind countries that do not force students to take as many assessments. And the countries that are ahead mostly only have students take standardized tests at key points during the year (Chubb pg.9). One country that is known to have an excellent education system is Finland. Unlike the United States, Finland does not emphasize the importance of standardized testing. The Finnish emphasize the importance of a teacher’s good education. That way, there are fewer bad teachers and more teachers that love teaching in a good way (Slon pg.49). Schools with less testing do better; it is very simple to see. It is just like the two high schools I attended, the first one with less testing did better than the one with constant testing throughout the entire year
The quality of the education also decreases when there is constant testing of the students. The work that is being done is not the best work that the students could be doing. The reason why it is not the student’s best work is because many teachers in school districts with many assessments have to “teach to the test”. Teaching to the test can lead to dry and boring learning environments for both the students and the teachers. One reason why teachers teach to the test is because the teachers and schools are graded by how well their students did on the test, so teachers are forced to make tests a high priority (Popham pg.48). This high priority can lead to corruption and many other problems. “The pressure to score well on a single test is so intense that it leads to nefarious practices (cheating on the test, data manipulation), distorts education (narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test), and ends up demoralizing our educators.” (Nichols, Berliner pg.41). All of those things are happening because tests are so important in education today. John Chubb also says “Corollary issues drive too many teachers to teach to the test and push schools to dedicate resources to test prep rather than a focus on a high-quality curriculum.” (Chubb pg.1). John Chubb is not the only one who says that teaching to the test is bad, Stephanie Schneider has to say: “Unfortunately, as the use of standardized tests increases, more classroom time is being dedicated to exam preparation and administration, which only results in a narrowing of the curriculum.” (Schneider pg.30). The “narrowing of the curriculum” hurts classrooms everywhere. All of this test prep is boring school work, and intern, students do not get as good grades. I once had a science class that was almost dedicated to test preparation for the graduation test. That dedication to the test meant that the entire time you were in class; you were only doing notes and nothing else. That meant no labs, no dissection, or anything normally considered fun in science class.
One thing that has always plagued standardized testing is that it is not quite clear if the information gathered from the tests are useful for the school districts and the teachers. The information is never even given to the teachers. Stephanie Schneider says “These tests do not inform my instruction. Since I am not allowed to see the content of the test, any resulting information is worthless.” (Schneider pg.31). If the teacher doesn’t get the information or the content that was on the test, then the teacher would not be able to make adjustments to his or her lesson plan. There are so many school officials that say that the data collected by the tests is very important and that it is very useful in helping the students. But if the teachers can’t even see the information from the tests, then there is no way that the data can help the students. The information that is presented by tests, as by James Popham, “are faulty indicators of how well they have been taught.” (Popham pg.47). There is a lot debate over if tests are useful in any way. Popham also goes on also to say “we have no meaningful evidence at hand indicating that these tests can accurately distinguish between well taught and badly taught students” (Popham pg.49). With that said, that means that tests can’t detect if the students were taught well. That is one of the main pieces of data that tests are supposed to provide. If they can’t determine good students from bad ones, then standardized tests hold no purpose. Popham also had to say “How can we in good conscience permit our nation’s educational leaders and policy makers to rely on test results that may be completely unsuitable for the purposes to which they are being put?” (Popham pg.52). If these tests are failing to accomplish what they are designed for then why do we use them so frequently?
Standardized testing has grown more popular than ever. That brings people for and against of standardized testing. I still think that there is too much testing with the negative problems it has. But there are some real and very valid reasons in why to say that standardized testing is good. One thing that people say that are for standardized testing is that testing provides good and useful information. One teacher said “I do think it has been very helpful in our building for when they walk in on day one to know this kid really doesn’t know this, this kid didn’t understand . . . and that data has certainly helped us to know our kids much better.” (Buck, Ritter, Jensen, Rose pg. 51-52). Whether or not testing gives valuable information is up for much debate, opinions vary some think that it is good, while others think it’s bad. It is very hard to say if the data is truly good or bad, I think your opinion would be dependent on what the school district policies are. Another theme found by Buck, Ritter, Jensen, and Rose was that standardized testing pushes teachers to collaborate with other teachers better. One teacher in their study said “testing does give us a common goal, and we can work together.” (Buck, Ritter, Jensen, Rose pg. 53). Collaboration is a very good method of getting better ideas for anything, and the collaboration between teachers can only help the education, not hurt. One theme that can be very good for teacher can be teacher accountability; that way teachers have to teach, in order to keep their jobs. One teacher had to say “We all need accountability. . . . [It] helps us be better teachers and not just take a day off because we don’t feel like it and let [the students] watch a movie.” At a third school, a teacher said, “I absolutely believe in accountability and having [the students] know those benchmarks before they go on to another grade.” (Buck, Ritter, Jensen, Rose pg. 53). This teacher accountability can help make sure that teachers are doing what they are supposed to do. But there wouldn’t have to be as much teacher accountability from the tests if the teachers had stricter educations. There can be some things that standardized testing can be good for, but there is still so much backlash to testing all with their own very valid reasons to why testing is not good.
Standardized testing has earned its bad name, and something needs to be done to fix the plenty of issues surrounding standardized testing. Standardized testing can be good if used in proper ways, but currently there is way too much testing that is required in too many schools. The solution is simple, just test students less often. This could be done in many ways, but the easiest way would for the school districts allow more power to the teacher and not force the students to test as often. And if the school districts do not trust the teachers to be good teachers without the numerous tests throughout the year, then maybe those teachers should not be teachers. Schools need to start to only test students at key junctions in their education. The tests that are used at the key points in the year then can be used to evaluate the teachers’ effectiveness; it does not make sense that teachers have to be evaluated through tests every couple months. Also, if districts were to dramatically decrease the number of tests per year, the backlash against tests would be much lower. With fewer tests the pressure put on teachers by school districts; and with the less pressure, the many problems of test distortion, like cheating (teachers and students), would not be as big of a problem. The problem of not knowing why you are taking a test is one problem that needs to change. It is not right that the people forced to take a test do not know why they took the test, or what they plan to use the results for. If the district is going to force me to take a standardized test, I would at least like to know the reason why I am taking the test. It is very unfair to students and teachers when they don’t know why or for what reason for taking a test because these tests take a lot of time, and everyone knows that time is very important. If the students did not have to take as many standardized tests, then the common “teaching to the test” problem would be eliminated. If the teaching style of teaching to the test, or test prep, was eliminated, then the learning environment would be a much better, more fun school experience. Classes like science class would actually be fun where you don’t have to constantly to test prep notes. Instead of notes, the class could do more fun and educational science labs. This does not just go for science class but all classes that are affected by standardized testing. With less testing, school can be fun again. Students would get a better, more educational school experience.
Standardized testing has become a big issue in today’s school system, and something needs to be done to fix it. Go make sure that school districts know that they need to require fewer tests, so that the school can be a much better place for students to learn. It is well known that there are great schools around the world that require little or no standardized testing, so all schools can follow in those ways to make school better, and eliminate all the problems with standardized testing.
Annotated Bibliography: Standardized Testing
Buck, Stuart, et al. "Teachers Say The Most Interesting Things -- An Alternative View Of Testing." Phi Delta Kappan 91.6 (2010): 50-54. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Key Terms: Testing
This study examines why teachers think testing is bad or good. In the study the Authors were expecting to hear nothing but complaints about tests, but the authors were surprised to see what some teachers had to say: testing helps in multiple ways. In conclusion they said that not everyone may like testing, but they are crucial in education. This essay opposes what I was arguing in my paper, but I did use this essay in my rebuttal paragraph. This essay was important for my paper because having a rebuttal in a persuasive essay is good.
CHUBB, JOHN. "Giving Assessment A Better Name." Independent School 73.2 (2014): 9-11. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Key Terms: Testing, Common Core
This Periodical Examines the argument if standardized testing is good for school. The author, John Chubb, opposes standardized testing in its current form. Chubb is the president of NAIS, and participated in many educational studies. He thinks that testing has held too much precedence in today’s education, also there need to be better assessments to match the way of the common core. I agree mostly with Chubb, and his work was a big impact on my paper.
Nichols, Sharon L., and David C. Berliner. "Why Has High-Stakes Testing So Easily Slipped Into Contemporary American Life?."Education Digest 74.4 (2008): 41-47. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Key Terms: High-Stakes Testing, NCLB
This argument examines why high-stakes testing has become so prevalent in this modern society. Nichols is a professor of Educational Psychology in the University of Texas, and Berliner is a professor of Education of Arizona State University. They argue that high-stakes testing is bad and that the No Child Left Behind law just made the education system worse. They have varying reasons why high stakes testing has become a bad thing. There was not whole lot that I used in my paper because they had many reasons that did not align with my paper, but I did use the parts that concern education directly.
"Overview Of No Child Left Behind." Congressional Digest 87.5 (2008): 131-137. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Key Terms: assessments
This was not used in my essay, but because so many of my sources brought up NCLB, I thought it was important to be familiar with its policies. NCLB was an education law passed during president bush’s two terms. The focus of this law was to strengthen the nation’s public school system. The main point up for argument was the article on standardized testing, where students must take annual assessments so that students can pass state standards. Other parts to this law were: more choice for parents and students, greater stability for schools, also putting reading first. This was good background knowledge for my essay.
Popham, W. James. "The Right Test For The Wrong Reason." Phi Delta Kappan 96.1 (2014): 46-52. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Key Terms: Testing, Validity
This argument examines the usefulness, or validity of standardized testing. James Popham is a professor of Education and information studies in the University of California. He argues that the tests that are being used now are not being used for the right reason. He thinks the tests do not do an adequate job of assessing the students. This essay was crucial to my paper for its reasons on why tests do not provide the needed information.
SCHNEIDER, STEPHANIE, and MATT CHRISTISON. "Are Exams Bad For Children?." New Internationalist 464 (2013): 30-32.Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Key Terms: testing, school
This Periodical examines two different peoples’ view point over standardized testing. Matt Christison is a high school principle, and he is for standardized testing. Stephanie Schneider is an early public school teacher (3-6 year olds), and she is against standardized testing. They both have very good arguments that helped a lot in my paper. I mostly referenced Schneider because it went along with what I was arguing. Christison’s section was useful for seeing the other side of the argument.
SLON, STEVEN. "Teaching To The Test Gets An 'F'." Saturday Evening Post 285.5 (2013): 47-49. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Key Terms: Test Teaching
This essay examines the bad parts of standardized testing, also deals with “teaching to the test”. The Author is Steven Slon, who is an editorial director and associate publisher of The Saturday Evening Post, and thinks that the daily test-prep is ruining education. Slon also has a conversation with Sir Ken Robinson where they discuss test-prep, and other problems with testing. This essay was helpful for my essay for its discussion over testing. There was much helpful information that was usable in my essay.