The Controversy Over Standardized Testing

Standardized test have become a staple of American education. As a public schooler, you go into class and do class work day by day, following the curriculum that the teacher must follow to the end of the school year to gear you up for a test. As a homeschooler, your parents may have even had to test you to make sure you were ready for the next grade’s material, but the application is noticeably different. While one is used to strengthen your love for learning without overwhelming you with too much information, the other becomes a means to an end.

So what’s wrong with standardized testing?

If you live in Florida, Texas, California, Maine, or any one of the 50 states, you’ve had to take some form of state-designated test at some point in your life. Whether it’s the FCAT, STAR, TAKS, or any other three or four letter acronyms a politician can think up, you’re at least familiar with one of them. If not, then you have to at least know about the SAT.

At home, standardized tests are useful in measuring your performance to the state standards; if you didn’t score so well, then all your parents had to do was change the curriculum and they way they taught you so that you could improve. In the public school environment, teachers don’t get this kind of freedom. The school’s funding is based on how well students do on the test and this burden is laid upon the teachers. They’re expected to teach the required material in order for their students to pass the test, so they must bite the proverbial bullet so that the school gets its money and so that they can keep their jobs.

In the end, this really isn’t a problem with testing in general, but our education system’s attitude towards testing. Students aren’t learning anything. Instead, they’re told to memorize a bunch of information listed on a worksheet so they can pass a test. If this is what our education system has come to, then we’ve really missed the point of learning.

In order to really learn anything, memorization must be backed up with practical application. It’s not enough just to know the information, but to actually understand it after putting that knowledge to practice. If you ever wondered why “gifted” students are so good at passing tests, it’s not because they’re more intelligent than you, it’s because they’re just really good at memorizing a ton of information. So in reality, you’re probably more intelligent than they are.

The point is, when teachers have to resort to just chucking facts at students without providing any practical understanding of the subject matter, students are being cheated out of a good quality education. Students that should be passing end up failing and the ones who shouldn’t end up passing. The ones that fail end up hating learning and the ones in between end up toiling in frustration just to make the grade.

Then why do we need them?

Standardized tests are an effective tool to see where you stand in comparison to everyone else and to make an assessment as to where you should focus your attention on your learning so that you may improve. Besides, testing is a part of life. You have to take them to get certifications or to obtain and keep a job. People want to know that you know what you know, and there are certain things in your desired career field that everyone needs to know.

Again, the problem isn’t standardized tests, but the attitude towards the tests. What was originally a valuable assessment tool┬áhas now become states’ means of making sure that students are being taught what they need to know for college. Now our education system has got itself pointed in the wrong direction because of it. No longer are students being taught to learn, but taught instead to pass a test.