Standardized tests are the bane of my existence.
Why? Mainly because they don’t show an accurate portrayal of students.
Standardized testing came about during the Industrial Revolution when schools were flooded with students and the focus was not on innovative thinking, but rather on preparing students for the manufacturing workforce.
Schools were established during the Industrial Revolution to get children out of harm’s way in factories. Students were not being released into a society where thinking critically–and for yourself–was important. While standardized testing was at one point in time acceptable, we’re now in a position to do better. Standardized testing is not helping students or schools today — it’s hurting them.
Standardized tests are a one shot deal. Whether you’re having an exceptional day or struggling on an “off” day, the results from one single test are used to determine your projected success. You wouldn’t go on a vacation, take one single picture, and show that picture to your friends to describe your entire vacation. Similarly, a student’s improvement, projected success, work ethic, and knowledge cannot be accurately judged based on one test score from a single moment in time. Quite simply, assessing a student based on a test score is not a fair or precise way to assess what students really know.
A Necessary Evil?
While teachers and administrators often brush off standardized tests as a “necessary evil”, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are other ways for students to learn more and show what they know. The most I have ever learned was in a Project-Based Learning-style class. Everyone started off with the same basis of knowledge before branching off to research a sub-topic of interest to them. For example, when learning about the Middle East, we chose whether to research culture and religion, economics and oil, war and terrorism, or domestic politics and international relations. By choosing a topic of interest, we were motivated to learn as much as possible and go the extra mile on assignments. We learned more than we ever would while preparing for a standardized test.
When it came time for the teacher to assess what we learned, he did not give us a traditional test. Instead, we worked to create a tangible product that showed our true understanding of the material. Further, PBL enabled us to get more out of the material by teaching real-life skills: working in groups, being responsible, and communicating effectively — all things that would not be learned while preparing for a fill-in-the-bubble test.
The real world judges you on the quality of your work, not your ability to regurgitate material. If we can begin to move away from standardized testing and towards an unconventional, new classroom style, students will get much more out of their education. We’re living in an innovative, evolving, global society. Students are beyond being graded in a one-size-fits-all manner. Big picture? Our society cannot continue to evolve if students are taught to a test, rather than understanding.
We’re in the 21st century.
Let’s act like it.
Image attribution flickr user rdecom