Dear future president or current reader,
When it comes to the topic of standardized testing, most of us would agree that it is important to get the best possible scores in order to get into the best possible university and open up all sorts of options for the future. Unbelievable pressures are put on students and teachers alike to prepare for these tests that could change their entire future. The exact purpose of these tests is to “compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students.” But is one standardized test really the best way to compare a group of diverse learners and thinkers? Although some may disagree, standardized testing causes more problems for students and teachers than they do help them. I would not suggest completely getting rid of these tests, simply making them less of a weighing tool when comparing students.
To begin, standardized tests cause extreme stress for students and even for teachers. This stress could alter their ability to perform well and is generally unhealthy for students. These students are started on the pathway to commonly known tests such as the ACT or SAT at a very young age, “the causes of childhood stress are numerous. One of the most commonly cited is standardized-test stress, which starts in first-grade in many states.” In first grade, children are 10 or 11 years away from taking the tests that will help them get into colleges. In some ways, it is good to prepare students for the situations they will be in when those test days come. But on the other hand, these kids are already feeling that pressure to do well on those tests. In addition to putting pressure on these young kids, focus on tests is making less time for lessons in creativity and imagination, two essential parts to any childhood. There is a variety of things young students will miss out on if they take the time to prepare for tests instead of learning other valuable lessons. According to recent studies, “chronically stressed children do pay a heavy price. In fact, they are at risk of cognitive damage”. Kids whose brains are not fully developed risk serious damage to their brains from too much stress. Chronic stress is clearly an issue for young people, and one source of this stress is the standardized tests that they are expected to do well on from a very young
In addition to this stress being placed on young students, it is also being placed on teachers administering and preparing students for these tests. Some teachers have reported feeling arguably more stressed than students. The source of their stress is from the expectation that student test scores reflect how well a teacher is doing. This has gotten to the point that in a survey, “nearly half (45 percent) of surveyed member teachers have considered quitting because of standardized testing.” Teachers, like their students, should not be evaluated solely on test scores. Although it may be easier for school systems to “rat out” bad teachers based on how their students do, it is an unfair evaluation of their efforts and ability to teach. Teachers have no control over how students perform on tests, despite their efforts. Especially based on how “the average teacher now reports spending about 30 percent of their work time on testing-related tasks”. Is this really what we want students to spend 30 percent of their time on? Learning test taking skills will have limited benefits for students in the real post-college world. And of course the issue remains that teachers have to teach these skill in order to eventually have good grades from students that will reflect well on their teaching abilities.
In addition, the process of getting accepted into colleges and universities has become very competitive. See the statistics for yourself, “ the number of high school graduates increased 24% from 1991 to 2004, and the number is expected to grow another 5% before 2017. That’s an additional 700,000 high school graduates queuing up for college admission, while the actual number of colleges has remained the same.” The competition to get into the best possible colleges has increased significantly, as has the competition to be accepted into these colleges. A large part of the application process for most of these schools will be examining and comparing the test scores of different applicants. So students feel these pressures, they feel their future depends on their test scores and doing poorly could crush all of their previous dreams of going to a college and getting a good job. It is simply not healthy for anyone to be having these types of thoughts, they lead to extreme anxiety or even depression. Without the pressure of standardized tests, students could focus on being judged by schools based on their actual reasons for applying.
At this point you may be wondering how standardized tests could possibly be replaced. They are the simplest way to compare students, after all. The real place where test scores make a difference is when students are looking to get into different colleges which is also what makes standardized tests so important. The solution would be forcing colleges to judge each individual not based on their test scores, but instead based on their ability to succed as a student. The tests could still be used to compare students, but it would not be the deciding factor of preventing any particular student from entering certain programs. Where students get into for college can determine how the rest of their life will go.
The most important thing is for students to be judged based on their strengths and weaknesses, which are not always revealed accurately with the use of a standardized test. Every student has a different way of thinking and test taking. Every student wants to know that their hours upon hours of studying and sleepless nights have payed off. Every student wants to be secure in knowing that they did everything in their power to make a successful future for themselves.
Thank you for reading my letter,
NEA Survey: Nearly Half Of Teachers Consider Leaving ... (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from http://neatoday.org/2014/11/02/nea-survey-nearly-half-of-teachers-consider-leaving-profession-due-to-standardized-testing-2/
Pelisser, H. (2016, April 4). How stress affects your child - GreatKids. Retrieved October 20, 2016, from http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/how-stress-affects-your-child/
Standardized Test Definition - The Glossary of Education ... (2015, December 11). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from http://edglossary.org/standardized-test/
Wilde, M. (2016, March 11). Are we stressing out our kids? | Parenting. Retrieved October 20, 2016, from http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/stressed-out-kids/