Finals week is approaching for college students, AP exams looming for high school students, and it is at this time of year that standardized test prep is really emphasized. Before taking the Politics of Reading course, I did not ever really stop and think about the influence of standardized tests. I always thought that it was something that had always been done. Something that my parents probably had to go through, and even my grandparents. Shocking to me however, was that this simply was not the case. Standardized testing has really been emphasized for my generation and especially for generations going through the public K-12 school system in America right now.
As classes come to a close, the inevitable question most students are left contemplating, is “what grade do I need on this exam?” Online grade calculators come in handy to see if the grade can be saved with exams that are worth 25-30% of the overall grade. The stress is high however when for many students, the line between passing or failing a class depends solely on this one number. Finals week for colleges is much the same as standardized tests for any other grade levels because of the emphasis placed upon the student to score within a very small range of possible “good” scores. Every student wants to do well in a class, so why do so many classes weigh the outcome of an entire semester’s worth of work only on one grade? Why does one number on the SAT define many college admissions? Why does one grade on the LSAT, MCAT, or GRE get to determine an individual’s entire future?
Last week in class we sought reactions and opinions to the standardized testing dilemma, and most of the results were with similar disgust to what I am currently feeling for the testing system as a whole. I understand that some measure of achievement needs to be possible to account for student performance. As a community of educators and students, we need to work together to devise a new measure that will benefit everyone. Educators should not be punished for low student scores, and students should not have their dreams of a successful future crushed by one number or one bad day.
I have learned a lot this semester from the Politics of Reading, number one being that there is a lot of work to do within the education system as a whole. Like any other system of ever-changing technology, advancements will forever be necessary in order to better teach future generations. The emphasis however should be on teaching, not testing. Creating great teachers through a rigorous and innovative training program is integral to creating good students. The public school system is not all doom and gloom, nor is it all mandated by big policy initiatives and outcries for a bigger budget. It is simply made up of the people that administrate and educate. Keeping in mind that neither of these tasks emphasize robotic testing practices.
Hands on learning is also imperative to the ability of a student to be successful. Companies want employees with experience. They want to turn well rounded students into pioneers of a new tomorrow. Without the ability to gain hands on learning experiences, and only the ability to test and retest, we are not preparing for a better future. Filling out scantrons and answering ambiguous questions will not get us very far in life, so integration of more hands on learning is what I propose to be an alternative to the testing movement. Why have a student take a 3 hour exam on reading comprehension, when they could retell in their own words or act out what they read, emphasizing key terms that they learned throughout the semester. This alternative type of testing through hands on role based practicing may not be a good fit for everyone, but it is an alternative that shows that the testing system as it is today is not the only way of doing things.
I have learned that it is vital to question everything. Ideas should continuously be revamped so that they are best suited to the population that they will be effecting. The education system should follow suit and revamp the way that curriculum is being implemented and tested. If there is a problem with significantly low student scores, perhaps the problem is the test and not the students or the teachers. Everything must be questioned and looked at empirically in order to find the best possible solution. I just hope that solutions will arise before the testing industry destroys the education system completely.