What Teachers Wish You Knew Part 3: The Test is a Waste

When I was in school, standardized testing was a new concept.

We would roll into school and the teacher would say “today’s the Iowa test. Grab a pencil.” We would go to the cafeteria, answer basic multiple choice questions in reading and math, and then get on with our day.

With time and as politics and money became a factor, standardized testing in schools became “the measure of all things” (NEA)

The effects since 2001 have been detrimental to all of education.

  1. They are no longer a measure of student basic skills and knowledge.

Despite the evidence that increasing in testing has not improved the actual knowledge and abilities of students, our school systems are required to test students and make a certain grade in order to stay accredited.

But the truth as many professional educators can see, is that the test is not an accurate assessment of learning essential skills and knowledge of the students. Many tests are written 2 grade levels above the standard. Many see that the questions are written to confuse, with the direct intention of making sure that not everyone is successful.

Therefore, not only are teachers teaching the state standards, but they need to figure out how to teach everyone in the class to read 2 grade levels above standard, and they have to teach how to not get tricked by the questions.

Yes, test taking management and study skills should be included in the system. But how did it become that the test is made specifically to confuse and to fail kids?

     2. School districts are strapped for money and required to pay for the test.

The average cost of standardized testing is $33 per student per year, just to take standardized tests. That’s a huge burden on the school, district or state entity to pay for, but if they don’t, then they lose state funding in many areas. These are the same schools struggling to pay basic salaries.

     3. This invites politicians to become over-involved… but not present

The grades of standardized tests quickly becomes fuel for a politician’s fire. Granted, almost no politicians know or understand the first thing about public education, and almost none of them have been inside of a public school building as an adult. But it’s easy to use data to downgrade.

In other words, if a school is struggling, they can say “see; you don’t deserve funding” or “we shouldn’t be funding public education at all.”

This is a huge trend in American politics, trying to shift money out of public schools and using poor testing data as an excuse.

As we have already seen already today, the tests don’t indicate student basic skills and knowledge, nor do they show what the schools are doing for the good of their students, but it’s an easy finger to point and an easy way to funnel money out of the system.

If that doesn’t concern you, I want you to take a moment and consider life in 10 years if we don’t have schools or any kind of education system in place in America. For reference, your average 5th grader will be 21 years old. What if he has no education? How will that impact your life?

     4. It takes the power out of trained educational professionals

Teachers are not some Joe or Jane off the pickle truck. They are certified and educated professionals … or they should be (looking at you, Florida and Arizona). Education is a serious career path with standards and practices that have to do with how to manage a classroom, how to teach to varying levels and abilities, how to involve all students, how to empower kids to succeed, how to address social-emotional learning, and more. Besides the fact that teachers are an expert in a subject field or matter.

If we expect better, just like in the medical field or in the legal field, we need teachers to be able to use their skills in order to teach and manage their classrooms. They need to be given the space and time to teach.

Teachers and administrators are more than capable of creating appropriate assessments. States have standards, and educators understand them. As states and school districts work together, they are more than capable of using assessment tools that more accurately assess the skills and knowledge of their class base. They don’t need standardized tests written by people who have nothing to do with classroom education.

It’s time to put the trust back in education and to respect the field. Only with respect and honoring the field can we expect any better in American schools.

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