Standardized tests hurt students
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 23:02
As a product of the Texas public school system, I have to say I was not at all dissatisfied with my experience. I had a great time at school. I don’t mean rewarding. I actually did have a great time at school. It was essentially a free-for-all requiring little to no effort or brainpower. The one thing we were able to master, however, was the science of test taking.
Early on, we were introduced to the TAKS test, which was statewide from third grade to junior year of high school. They always covered your basic subjects: math, social studies, science and English. Math. Social studies. Science. English. Each test subject would span an entire day of school, even though most students finished after three hours.
The logic behind such long testing periods was to make sure there was no pressure. So thank you, Texas, for taking away the anxiety in the only area where no one actually seemed to care. We were all very worried that we would not have enough time to answer 80 multiple choice questions in the span of 8 hours.
Even though the TAKS was a joke of a test, there was a strong emphasis on doing well. We were always encouraged to succeed, with cheers and songs and little goodie bags. The administration’s zeal for us was seemingly selfless, until we reached a certain age where we discovered that schools were given more money by the government based on performance.
There’s the kicker.
We were trained throughout the entire year for a test that could not possibly gauge our learning for that class because after elementary school you stop taking “reading.” Teachers begin to have personalized curriculum, as they should, that cannot possibly coincide with the standardized test for an entire grade level.
You’re taking a chemistry class? Oh, sorry. The science test is going to cover biology, so we’ll need you to take a six-week break in your chemistry lessons to review how mitosis works.
Every year, we spent extensive amounts of time learning how to take these tests. We learned how to properly underline and highlight a narrative about how good Jimmy was at playing marbles. We learned how to eliminate answer choices before even reading the question because it was too unrelated to the other choices. We learned that a good personal narrative consisted of three paragraphs, carefully constructed after drawing out a flow-chart.
After all of the preparation for mindless testing, there wasn’t much room for actual learning. Even worse, there wasn’t much room for learning how to learn. I didn’t realize how academically deprived I was until I began college. Professors seem almost heartbroken when they assign a paper meant to spur deep thinking and a student says “so, how many pages does this need to be?”
Public schools are doing America a huge injustice by emphasizing standardized testing. If all we’re learning is how to systematically answer questions, we will be drained of the innovation and creativity needed to move this country forward. Providing incentives to schools for test performance only hinders the learning experience.
Thrall is a sophomore majoring in journalism and film.