October 23, 2016
Dear Mr./Mrs. President:
Testing. It’s something everyone has to do in school. Kids wake up on test morning with fake headaches and stomach aches to try and get out of the events that will follow; but not to worry, they feel the real stomach ache on the ride to school. Then the nervous shivers when they sit down in their chair in front of the booklet that could change their lives. Kids look at the small instruction booklet and think that this one test could make or break their future, and as silly as that seems to adults, to teenagers it seems like the end of the world. Schools either need to reduce standardized testing in school or find an alternative way to get the information they need.
Since the beginning of 2002, when the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law by president George W. Bush, annual testing in reading, math, and science was mandated. A year later, President Obama signed in law his Race to the Top program which gave states with better test scores $4.35 billion in extra funding. These tests, while they can bring more money for funding in schools, also bring many consequences for students, teachers, and schools. They can lead to students being held back, teachers being fired, and even schools being closed due to low test scores.
Standardized testing is too much stress on students. According to a study done by education researcher Gregory J. Cizek, ”testing produces gripping anxiety in even the brightest students, and makes young children vomit, or cry, or both.” Standardized tests are so stressful for students that certain examines- like the Stanford 9 exam- come with instruction on what to do with a test booklet if a student vomits on it. Part of the stress comes from the pressure kids are under to represent how effective their teachers and schools are. People use the results from tests to judge whether or not teachers and schools are meeting standards and in some cases teachers can be fired or schools can be shut down if scores aren’t “good enough”.
Testing also negatively affects teaching and the way students learn and retain information. Standardized testing causes knowledge that may not be in the test to be eliminated from the curriculum, even if the information is still important and should be taught. The tests also promotes a way of teaching called “teaching to the test”, teaching that only covers what is on the test and forgoes all other aspects of teaching that could help kids learn and puts the teachers on a time limit, forcing them to skip over parts of the curriculum that are important but not tested for. “Teaching to the test” not only affects how teachers teach, but also prohibits the ability for our school system to produce innovative and critical thinkers. Testing also creates a loss of curiosity and a loss of the love of learning needed for kids to succeed. When kids think about teaching they don’t think about the fun lessons and learning cool, new things anymore- they think about testing.
One of the main issues on standardized testing is that the tests aren’t accurate. A 2001 study published by Brookings Institution found that 50-80% of test score improvements were temporary and caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with actual changes in learning. A test can also be greatly influenced by outside factors like a student being sick or having troubles at home and can’t focus. There is also the issue that the tests are unfair and discriminatory towards non English speaking students and students with special needs. These students are forced to take the exact same tests as normal students with little to no accommodations usually provided for them. There is no real way to gauge learning on a test that can be influenced in many different ways and students are put through way too much to take a test that may or may not be effective and accurate.
As a student I see- and experience- a lot of the negative effects of standardized testing, but I’m also aware of some of the positive sides. Proponents argue that these tests are a fair and objective way to measure ability and also keep schools and teachers accountable. They also expose racial biases in America’s education system. Tests are able to show where there is low academic performance of kids of different races and lower income students.
While the goal for testing is to show parents and teachers see how their students are doing in school, the outside factors are too great and impact the results too much that the testing becomes inaccurate and starts to do more harm than good. Although testing gives parents, teachers, and schools the information they need, we as a country, either need to take out the tests completely and find a new way to gain the information they need, or find a way to take some of the stress off students so they show their full potential on these tests.