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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Teaching to the test still not productive

Any of us who studied in Arizona before college distinctly remember the process of Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards testing, during which teachers would spend weeks preparing us specifically for the reading, writing and math sections of the state’s preferred standardized test.

This process is not unique to Arizona—standardized tests have been prevalent nationwide for decades, with their use increasing significantly after former President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act required yearly testing in every state.

Tests that are de facto mandatory for college entrance—like the SAT and ACT—have also become more important for entrance into increasingly competitive universities.

Students have simply accepted this as part of our educational system, but is standardized testing really the best method for ensuring that students are grasping the material?

President Barack Obama argued against standardized testing last week, when he said, “When I look back on the great teachers who shaped my life, what I remember isn’t the way they prepared me to take a standardized test.”

Obama also argued that teachers are spending too much time teaching for the tests. This takes away from the creativity and innovation that can come from original ideas.

As a result, the president has chosen to enact a policy requiring public school teachers to spend no more than two percent of class time on standardized testing.

As of now, according to NPR, American students take an average of 112 standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and 12th grade.

Specifically, the change will be overseen by the Department of Education, which will offer extra money in the form of grants to states that review their testing requirements and remove unnecessary exams.

Hopefully, this new aspect of education policy will help to remove some of the unhelpful procedures that were established during the Bush administration.

Standardized tests—often defended as an ideal, objective way to compare students—rarely end up being fair.

Instead, they consistently act as a disadvantage to foreign students and students with learning differences. These students are still required to take the same tests as others, yet often perform poorly due to their external circumstances.

Furthermore, students’ scores on state-mandated tests are often included as part of teachers’ performance reviews, meaning a teacher could be fired if the testers perform poorly. Yet, as any student knows, everyone learns, memorizes things and takes tests differently.

If a student freezes up during an exam and receives a failing grade, it doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent, but rather indicates a difference in learning style and personality.

Discriminating against those who have trouble with standardized testing sets them up to fail from an
early age.

Instead of placing emphasis on memorizing material specifically for the purpose of getting a favorable score on a high-stakes test, it would better suit both students and teachers if learning were structured to help the students, not to help them try to prove their intelligence to the government.

Some testing, of course, should remain in place, as it encourages revision of the material and provides a reward system for students.

The weight placed on these tests, however, is far too great. The current system encourages multiple-choice, cut-and-dry answers throughout adolescence, when in reality the world is much more open-ended.

Categorizing students as failures based on their scores from several arbitrary tests crushes confidence, discourages curiosity and stifles creativity.

Follow Cooper Temple on Twitter

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