There is a test today. No big deal, right? The feeling of butterflies eating from the inside out comes when you remember there was no such thing as studying last night. Everyone gets the same test so everyone is treated the same.
“This will take the entire hour,” the teacher says. With mostly multiple choice questions, this seems easy. The bubble sheet is passed around, a scantron they call it. First question is done in a breeze, but thirty minutes passed on the fifth. Other students are done quickly, and panic starts up in your mind. You think about what will happen if you don’t finish on time. The bell rings and you’ve done six questions out of sixty.
Welcome to the world of test anxiety.
Many students in Loy Norrix can relate to this feeling of being worried about any test, especially if the student didn’t study. What benefits are in tests anyway though? Standardized tests are unfair; they give no improvement to learning, and have no value in the long run of a student’s life and career.
After the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2002 (an act of Congress that requires schools to test student grades 3-8 and once in high school) the US was in 31st place (originally in the 18th) in Mathematics in the International Student Assessment in 2009. A similar drop in place was also found in Science assessments. This drop shows that we made the bar too high for our students, and it will get higher as time passes.
A study in 2001 by the Brookings Institution found that 50-80 percent of grade improvement and enhancements were temporary and had nothing to do with the student’s learning.
Any student that grew up in Michigan can tell someone about the MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) now know as the M-STEP (Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress), but I couldn’t tell you the day we took these tests, or what was inside. If anyone were to give you questions from inside the test booklet though, they would probably have to pay a few fines. Standardized tests students in Michigan take final exams such as the MEAP now the M-STEP (Michigan Student Test of Education Progress), MME (Michigan Merit Exam), and more.
Now, in many college applications, it is an option to put down your ACT scores, including Kalamazoo College.
English as a Second Language (ESL) students who barely know the English language have to take these mandatory standardized tests. Special education students have to take the same tests also and are not receiving the guidance these students are granted in their Individualized Education Plans. This is unfair when these students are not up to the reading or learning level as other students who have no learning disadvantages or cannot read the language.
We as students are studying for tests so we can be “smarter” rather than learn for life long experiences. We are studying for tests rather than learning for a job or preparing for a career. We are learning about imaginary numbers for a test rather than learning how to balance a checkbook. We are learning about the world wars for a test rather than how to stop another one from happening. We are learning about atoms for a test rather than how likely it is for your future child to have a birth defect.
We aren’t learning. We are regurgitating information onto a piece of paper in hopes of a correct answer.
Instead of these unfair and unnecessary exams, students should give oral or written reports for English exams, with work shown on the steps of the writing process. Bring back a reading-aloud-and-talk-about-what-you-read test for reading comprehension tests. Have students pick a certain amount of problems they are comfortable with and do the problems in front of the class for Mathematics tests. Reports on a historical event or some wars would be for History exams.
There are many possible substitutes to exams. If a student wants to be challenged, they should be given that chance. Limits shouldn’t always be tested though. I’m tired of reaching mine and feeling depleted afterward.
Base a student’s ability on talents and achievements, not a grade on their exams.
Standardized testing’s are unfair to students and mandatory exams are stressful and unfair to students. Eliminate standardized testing.