Standardized Testing = Standardized Students SAT, SAT II, ACT, PSAT, AP, STAR, CASHEE, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT…when will this list ever end? Standardized testing has taken an eminent role in deciphering today’s education and unfortunately, there is a test for every occasion whether it is for kindergarten, high school, college, or graduate school admission, or for the state to base a school’s progression. The bottom line is that there is no escaping such demoralizing and discriminatory tests. Standardized tests consist of very basic, simplistic questions similar to those aired on a television game show such as Jeopardy.
The answers reveal either an important name or date in history or an insignificant mathematical number; both answers have no value to a student’s education because they do not penetrate the deeper meaning of why. The student will remember the answer only as A, B, C, or D. These tests assess a limited range of English, science, history, and math skills, inaccurately and unfairly measuring a student’s growth because the multiple-choice questions lack the depth and value of an abstract, unique, and diverse education. What does it mean to be well educated or to be “smart”?
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Standardized tests are one-dimensional but the beauty of people is that we are all unique and creative in our mind-set. Smith (2002), a Rank Research Fellow and Tutor at YMCA George Williams College Gardner, defines intelligence through Howard Gardner’s seven multiple theories: linguistic, logical, musical, kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. He claims that “people have a unique blend of intelligences” and that our biggest challenge “is how best to take advantage of the uniqueness conferred on us as a species exhibiting several intelligences” (p. ). It is a rare gift to obtain all seven intelligences, thus we must Standardized Testing3 identify and educate ourselves at our own pace. Who’s right is it to say that an athlete or a musician is not as smart as a chemist or mathematician? The government has imposed numerous tests on students, consequently causing much insecurity and rejection in life. A single-subject multiple-choice exam cannot measure the full range of a person’s intellect because the tests only focus on a single seating of an exam of a limited topic rather than an array f topics over a progression of time. On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed the new “No Child Left Behind Act” to the United States, in which students will be tested annually in math and reading. These are only two core subjects that a multiple-choice exam cannot measure a full range of a person’s intellect. The U. S. Department of Education wants to implant higher standards for our country because we have not strived for academic excellence as a nation.
In carrying out this act, President Bush has four main tasks: “increase accountability for student performance, focus on what works, reduce bureaucracy and increase flexibility, and empower parents” (“No Child Left Behind,” p. 2). This, of course means that the schools that perform at high levels will be compensated whereas the schools that perform poorly will be punished by lack of sufficient funds and teacher quality. And such schools are usually a low-income, racially diverse student body, making the test biased towards the minority students.
This plan will supposedly ensure that the federal money will be used effectively towards the improvement of school’s resources, but how can this be if the low-scoring schools are not receiving any money? Lastly, empowering parents means sending home a grade report with an insignificant number to determine a child’s intelligence. Although the “No Child Left Behind Act” has the intentions to improve Standardized Testing4 American education, the impractical use of another standardized test will only make students feel more pressure and insecure to score well, losing their creative side.
The “No Child Left Behind Act” wants to raise the standards so that our future will be more astute and knowledgeable, but how is this feasible if teachers feel compelled to insert test-taking skills in to their lesson plans? Because of the increased amount of pressure to score highly on these tests, teachers must now devote class time to proper test-taking skills. In California, the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Test and the California State High School Exit Exam (CASHSEE) collectively play a significant role in grade advancement, high school graduation, and college entrance.
The tests become the school curriculum. According to Herman and Golan (1994), professors at the UCLA Graduate School of Education, teachers devote two to three hours every day to standardized test related exercises. Rather than holding a debate in history class or writing an in-class essay for English, teachers must sacrifice valuable time to teach a student how to effectively choose a correct answer from a list. These exams lose interactions with other students, thus losing Smith’s interpersonal intelligence, which states that it is the “capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people.
It allows people to work effectively with others” (p. 1). Standardized tests limit a student’s education and lower the expectations because of the lack of depth in the answers. Boaler (2002), a professor of mathematics at Stanford University, uses a similar approach to attack the validity of an exam. For example, on a history exam, a sample question might look like: Standardized Testing5 ‘What time period was the Civil War? ‘ a) 1776-1777 b) 1800-1809 c) 1861-1865 d) 1939-1944
Now the correct answer is the letter C, but what does that tell us about the Civil War? Who fought in the war? What were they fighting over? What was the outcome? These questions provide mind-stimulating answers, something that standardized tests lack. President Bush must re-look his approach to improving our education system because useless standardized exams will not enhance our nation’s knowledge. Rather, we will become robotic, memorizing meaningless facts until our brains have reached full capacity.
The number of standardized tests a student takes each year is increasingly growing, causing more pressure for students to apply their knowledge to only a multiple-guess format. The insignificant number that “defines” the student’s intellect leads to devastating failures such as not getting in to the college of choice or being held back a year in school. It is unfair to base such major decisions on a mechanical test. Odland (2005) claims this failure could lead to a lowered self-esteem, causing depression, anxiety, obesity, anorexia, or even suicide.
Going back to Smith’s theory, there is no single definition of intelligence; therefore there is no single test to define a person’s intelligence. From a personal standpoint, I feel threatened and unfairly judged by these tests because of the time constraint and the label that the tests produce. I consider myself to be a slow reader, so for me to cram numerous reading passages and answering multiple Standardized Testing6 questions in a strict time limit is strenuous, overbearing, and often nerve-wrecking.
During the STAR test, many of classmates find this test to be “extremely easy” and “basic”, and maybe I would too, if I were given enough time to thoroughly complete the assignment at my own pace. Rather, I feel pressure of the clock to finish. Often times the passages are purposefully dull and bland, to test if a student can keep concentration. Again, I ask President Bush how this raises the educational standards of our country. Teaching advocates support testing because they set up standards to which districts, schools, teachers, and students can aspire.
The data is used as feedback to improve the quality of education but I would like to propose Shafer’s (2001), a professor at Mott College, idea to evaluating the progress of our students: “Today, it makes sense to seek more holistic assessment instruments, using portfolios and presentations that demonstrate the totality of a student’s knowledge and growth” (p. 3). Student evaluations should be based on long-term projects, research papers, presentations, science labs, multiple math exams, art portfolios, and musical, theatrical, and athletic performances.
There is no limit as to what to evaluate because students inhibit unique and incomparable qualities to provide a diverse culture. The pressures put on students and teachers causes mental breakdowns and insanity because of its overbearing weight. There is too much emphasis on testing and not nearly enough on creativity. Each person has special, unique qualities that need to be expressed, but a multiple-choice exam soaks all the creativity out from a brain, draining a student. Schools must find ways to strengthen classroom assessments and use the Standardized Testing7 nformation that comes from these richer measures to inform the public. Multiple measures are vital to analyze a student. Standardized Testing8 References Golan, S. & Herman, J. (1994). Assessing the effects of standardized testing on schools. [Electronic version]. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 471(12), 1-14. Boaler, Jo. (2003). A Special Section on High-Stakes Testing: When Learning No Longer Matters: Standardized Testing and the Creation of Inequality. [Electronic version]. Phi Delta Kappan, 84(7), 1-6. Shafer, Gregory. (2001).
Tests That Fail Democracy. [Electronic version]. The Humanist, 61. 3, 1-4. Odland, Jerry. (2005). NCLB–more questions than answers. (From the Executive Director)(No Child Left Behind). [Electronic version]. Childhood Education, 81. 3, 1-2. Smith, M. K. (2002). Howard Gardner and Multiple Intelligences. The Encyclopedia of Informal Education. Retreived October 13, 2006, from http://www. infed. org/thinkers/gardner. htm The White House. (2002). No Child Left Behind Act. Washington DC: U. S. Government Printing Office.