Beyond Scared Straight…of Testing

High stakes testing has caused immense anxiety and unneeded levels of stress for parents, students, and teachers for years. Each standardized test embodies a set of unachievable standards that have been unfairly and abrasively imposed on students and teachers. It’s not that the content can’t be learned or that teachers aren’t capable of teaching the curriculum at hand, however the unrealistic expectation of continual incremental improvement perpetuates the anxiety. Additionally, many states want to have 95% of their students to meet or exceed standards in regards to standardized exam scores.

To be completely honest, I’m an advocate of testing. However I believe it should be used to solely gauge performance. It should be utilized for student tracking and it shouldn’t have as strong of an impact on teacher evaluation. While in middle and high school I became extremely anxious while taking tests. I’d have panic attacks where I felt at moments that I couldn’t catch my breath. Some teachers attempted to really accommodate me during unit exams. Sometimes I’d sit in a separate room or take my exam one sheet of paper at a time. However, standardized state exams didn’t offer me this option, so I was even more anxiety ridden when taking these tests. The thought of not performing at a higher level compared to my peers was nerve racking. After receiving scores, a majority of my peers would size each other up, academically speaking, and inquire about scores and see how had received the highest marks on the exam.

Many externalities complicate the notion of a “standardized test.” Not all schools that administer these tests have meet the expectations of what a standard school should be like. Funding disparities reflect test score disparities. Although money can’t technically buy test scores, in many ways it has immense influence:

Scenario 1: A suburban middle school is equipped with the most ergonomically correct student furniture (desks and chairs), all teachers have access to summer training, up to date text books, and teachers are very well compensated.

Scenario 2: An urban school has very few additional supplies, text books are essentially rationed out, high attrition amongst teachers makes it so that there is always a large group of new teachers that enter the school yearly, the teachers do not have access to summer training, and students sit in uncomfortable metal chairs.

Who will perform better?

Well it’s obvious that the suburban school is more than likely to perform exponentially better than the urban school in scenario two. If our government is so concerned about standards then why don’t schools have to achieve a certain standard? If schools met a standard criteria when it came to textbooks, desks, teacher training, etc then maybe having students and teachers meet a certain standard through testing would be more attainable. Also if business men and women have little apprehension investing millions into testing and national curriculum standards, why can’t they invest their money on providing all students equal access to learning material? Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t wrap my head around how solely nationalizing a set of educational standards can bridge the institutionalized gap in education.

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2 Responses to Beyond Scared Straight…of Testing

  1. cerouse2015 says:

    This post really resonated with me. I would also become very anxious when taking tests and often would not perform as well because of it. It took me until I transferred schools to really get a better control over this anxiety. I believe that there is too much pressure being put on students to perform well on these high stakes tests.


  2. natercole says:

    I completely agree. However, I would say that HST has a place in the professional world, when it comes to the MCAT and LSAT type testing, although the stress that comes with it can be harmful. Your solution that testing should only be to see progress is a great one, and one that i’m surprised more school districts haven’t taken yet.


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