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Numerous studies have been conducted on the various aspects of standardize testing since Horace Mann coined the idea in the year 1845. Horace Mann’s idea behind standardized testing was that instead of oral testing at the end of each year, student’s should rather have their knowledge evaluated by written exams. Though this was beneficial at the time, standardized testing has been warped into something that it was never intended to be. Politicians have control of these tests and the curriculum that is taught each year, rather than the teacher themselves creating and controlling curriculum. Furthermore, politicians have almost created a standardized test that is intended to trick the student. While standardized testing could be a beneficial system of testing, it has been created into a corrupt system intended to eliminate those who aren’t necessarily as capable of testing as well as other students and belittling students to believe that they are not good enough for further education.
Carole Gallagher, contributor to Educational Psychology Review (2003) tells us that “Using a common exam, he [Horace Mann] hoped to provide objective information about the quality of teaching and learning in urban schools, monitor the quality of instruction, and compare schools and teachers within each school” (p. 84-85). When first implemented, Mann found that there were “wide gaps in the knowledge of Boston’s schoolchildren” (Gallagher, 2003, p. 85). Mann found that the scholarly oral exam was coming short of the knowledge that a standardized test could provide. With oral testing, a student could simply memorize a few sentences, and from a teacher’s standpoint, it seems that the student understands the material. With Mann’s proposal of a written test, students were forced to learn the material, which is where such a large gap came from. Standardized testing then became the deciding factor of whether or not a student was ready to transition to the next grade level. “Mann’s proposals for additional testing were heeded in hopes of securing a fail-safe method for determining which students were prepared to move to the next academic level” (Gallagher, 2003, p. 85). Gallagher (2003) continues, comparing this method to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, telling us that, “Increasingly, diverse coursework and subjective teacher judgments made the task of student assessment more complex” (p. 85). Essentially, teachers, by increasing the complexity of the assessments, were weeding out the kids who weren’t necessarily prepared for the exam. This, in theory, was the beginning of the downfall of standardized testing.
It’s no secret that tests such as the Scholarly Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Test (ACT) are incredibly challenging, deriving from information that students could have learned many years ago. The SAT and ACT have become the standard in which colleges decide whether or not to admit a student. It has become crucial, and almost a necessity to do well on these standardized test. Xiaomin Qiu, one of the two authors of Global and Local Regression Analysis of Factors of American College Test (ACT) Score for Public High Schools in the State of Missouri (2011), examines the possible reasons why a student could perform well/poorly on the ACT. “Education-related extracurricular activities, such as reading at the library, working on homework, or participating in school-sponsored clubs and sports are also beneficial to academic performance” (Qiu et al., 2011, p. 65). Qiu (2011) continues to explain that the above statement is true, provided that the time spent on these activities is not extensive. Qui (2011) examines “the relationships between test score and education-related personal attributes, such as valuing education, attitude toward learning, and academic behavior as well as problem-solving skills and interpersonal communications” (p. 65-66). She finds that there is a correlation between “positive personal attributes contribute to academic achievement due to their effects on the amount of effort and time students put into school work and studying” (Qiu et al., 2011, p. 66). Ultimately, Qiu (2011) finds that higher involvement within extracurricular activities and attributes that value education contributes to higher scores on the ACT. While this shows correlation, it doesn’t show causation. Often times, students are not always head over heals for their school involvement, nor do some swoon at the sound of academics.
Our next problem comes from the performance of the students on standardized tests. In some schools, a students’ standardized test performances can decide whether a teacher can get a pay raise, pay deduction, or even lose their job. It can sometimes be beneficial, but there are times, more likely than not, that a quality teacher can be affected by the way their students perform on these tests. Larry Kuehn, contributing author to Our Schools/Our Selves (2010), writes that “it is no random coincidence that the use of the results of standardized testing to attack teachers is a global phenomenon… the Los Angeles school district standardized tests of elementary students are being used to define the “value added” produced by the teacher” (p. 69). Teachers are being evaluated by the way that their students perform. The idea that the problem could lie on the student, rather than the teacher, is neglected, and usually considered leaving the blame to the teacher.
A huge factor in standardized testing scores is the scores of low-income schools. Mark Wilson, the author of The Revised SAT Score and Its Potential Benefits for the Admission of Minority Students to Higher Education (2015), examines the affects on scoring in low-income schools. “Notable differences in the validity and predictive power of SAT scores and high school grades by race have been substantiated through numerous studies” (p. 6). Wilson (2015) finds that performances on tests like the SAT and ACT can, unfortunately, be split up by race, with some outliers. Wilson (2015) also finds that the two variables often “over predict performance of African-American and Hispanic students” (p. 6). Dana Goldstein, the author of Teacher Wars (2014), further discusses this issue in chapter eight of her book. “Teachers in urban Houston and Dallas scored lower on standardized tests than did the average suburban sixteen-year-old” (Goldstein, 2014, p. 169). It is unfortunate that scores can sometimes be affected by the makeup of demographics, but it is the reality.
While there are a number of solutions that have been coined, virtually none has successfully changed the weight of standardized tests, nor have they changed the quality of education that low-income schools are receiving. The idea of standardized tests should be put on the shelf and soon forgotten. These tests not only put stress on students who are attempting to prepare, but also on the teacher, whose job can rely on the score. Standardized testing is a large part of what admits students into college, but colleges can accommodate; the overall GPA should tell the college enough about what a student knows/does not know. Students should be evaluated on what they have learned throughout the year in a way that is interactive, while still being evaluated. There is no simple fix to this problem, but perhaps a better assessment for students could be evaluating the acquired knowledge through projects and presentations, that engage the student with hands-on experience so that a child may assimilate the knowledge into real useful skills for everyday life. Possibly another way to combat the issues of standardized testing is to address the involvement of politicians in the development of common core and testing. That is the role of teacher and teachers alone. Politicians do not contribute to the classroom experience, therefore, how can they decide what is best for the teacher and the students? The burden of standardized testing is weighing heavy on the growth of students. The dependence of test scores is a problem that will only fester if it is not addressed for the common good our students today and the students to come.
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