GOOD

Learning Should Be About Students, Not Tests

Schools, and the students within them, are not standardized. The way they are assessed shouldn't be either.


How does standardized testing affect students? After reading about the growing movement to opt out of standardized testing, I'm inspired to share my experience. I'm currently a senior at Mifflinburg Area High School in central Pennsylvania and have taken the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, a state required standardized test for students and schools to identify their "level." While in theory this kind of test—nowadays every state has their own version—may seem like a good idea, I do not believe standardized assessment is helping the educational process on the level of the schools and especially on the level of the students. It may even be hindering it.

Standardized testing creates a vicious cycle. The state hurts the school, which in turn must hurt the students. Schools—and administrators—must focus on state standardized tests since test scores determine funding. Schools that do not perform as well get less funding. This doesn’t make sense—wouldn't it be better to provide more resources to the schools that are not doing as well so that they can improve? Furthermore, the state has been making it even harder for schools to meet the standards they are setting. While many schools are not meeting—or just barely meet—current standards, state officials continue to raise standards rather than work to ensure that as many schools as possible meet the old levels first.


However, the worst thing about standardized tests is what they do to the students. As a student who does well in school, the new initiatives to prepare us for the tests are often frustrating. Four times this year—up from three in previous years—we, the students, are required to take practice tests. Aside from the fact that we have been taking the exact same tests, with the exact same questions for three years, it does not make sense that students who start the year in the advanced, or highest range, should be required to retake these tests. For these students, the hour and a half spent on these tests could be much better spent working on the myriad assignments they have for the scheduled classes.

My school district has also implemented Study Island, a new testing preparedness program. It’s a computer-based practice program designed to help students gain proficiency in reading. I see no benefit. Students taking honors or Advanced Placement English courses are, for the most part, already very proficient readers. The Study Island questions do not help this type of student improve, and the honors and AP English classes provide ample opportunity to improve reading skills at a deeper level that will be much more useful in the future.

These tests have become so important that they are not just affecting English classes. All classes, aside from mathematics—and including physical education, choir, welding, etc., —must do one PSSA-style reading exercise per marking period. This creates a catch-22: People are very worried about the health of children and teens, but time must be taken out of gym class for academics.

Student results on Study Island and the aforementioned practice tests are monitored very closely. Students who do not meet the requirements must attend extra practice classes every day during what would otherwise be a period devoted to studying and in-school clubs and activities. This creates yet another catch-22: While these students may show improvement on the standardized tests, they lose valuable time for studying and doing homework. This is likely to lead to lower academic performance, especially for students with after school jobs or sports commitments.

Schools—and the students within them—are not standardized, and the way they are assessed should not be either. Rather than have to "teach to the test" educators should be encouraged to promote creativity in students and should provide an individualized learning experience. The use of PSSAs and similar methods of evaluation should be reconsidered. After all, learning should be about the student, not about a test—and certainly not about the state.

Bubble answer with broken pencil image via Shutterstock

Articles

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE. Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture