Testing —Too Much of a Good Thing

Sometimes the best intentions have the most frightening consequences. When No Child Left Behind ushered in an avalanche of tests, I’m certain it seemed wise to construct testing bills. If one test would be good, multiple tests in every subject would be better. Today, children, parents, and teachers suffer the outcome of those early decisions. I am in favor of having high standards in education. I believe in assessment when it is used to test mastery and when used for diagnostic purposes. We have, however, gone overboard.

Standardized tests do provide a means to compare the results of various school districts. Differences in socioeconomic status and ethnicity can be compared and analyzed. Should charter and private schools agree to apply the same assessments, their results could be compared to those from traditional public education.

Unfortunately, there are too many tests and benchmarks. Assessment has become an enormous burden. State testing, in particular, is our new worst enemy. So much time is devoted to test preparation and actual testing that instructional time is lost in the process. While testing can be a valuable part of teaching, standardized assessment does not equate instruction.

According to a report by NBC in 2013, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), has a five-year contract for approximately $90 million a year with Pearson Education. “They are on-track to cost Texas taxpayers almost half a billion dollars over five years.”

Even our responsible students, who make good grades, often find themselves stressed about state tests. Given the fact that failure on one state test can cause a student to repeat a grade or fail to graduate, it is understandable that parents and students experience anxiety on test days. On April 28, 2015, Ed Ramos, a second grade teacher in San Antonio, shared the following comments with the Texas Senate:

  1. A bad test score can create a hurdle for getting into college or passing to the next grade level.
  2. Tests are written in a language that is beyond the reading ability of students.
  3. Timing tests creates additional anxiety.
  4. Tests provide punitive outcomes rather than diagnostic information.
  5. Testing diminishes creativity in students and teachers.
  6. Currently, state tests drive education. The tests have become the curriculum.
  7. On test days, the entire school stays quiet. No one goes to special areas or recess.

Schools, administrators, teachers, parents, and children find themselves trapped by the punishing restraints of state exams. Will our current legislators have the courage to begin to reduce the damage from poorly thought through intentions?

References:

Finley, Todd (July, 2014). Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding. edutopia.      Dipsticks:%20Efficient%20Assessment.webarchive

Meador, Derick. Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing. About Educationhttp://teaching.about.com/od/assess/a/Standardized-Testing.htm

Munoz, Roberta. (Dec. 4, 2014) High Stakes Testing Pros and Cons. Education.com.                 http://www.education.com/magazine/article/high-stakes-testing-pros-cons/

NBC5 News, April, 2013.

Ramos, Ed. Second grade teacher at Robert B. Green