Emily Columpsi

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery" -Mark Van Doren

Standardized Testing

A Standardized test is a test that is given in a consistent or “standard” manner. They are designed to have consistent questions, in addition to administration and scoring procedures. As well, when a standardized test is administered, it is done according to certain rules and stipulations so that testing conditions are the same for all students:  governed under controlled conditions that specify where, when, how, and for how long students respond to the questions. These tests range from standardized interviews, questionnaires, or direct intelligence tests. The main goal of standardized tests is to provide some type of standard score, which can help the teacher interpret where a student is at in relation to the average.

In my opinion, standardized tests totally undermine the quality of instruction as teachers feel like they are accountable for raising the bars; thus, as Alfie Kohn puts it, becoming more like drill sergeants than effective facilitators. Teachers feel controlled, ultimately limiting students to “play an active role in making decisions about their own learning.” As a result, the quality of learning is lowered. In addition, standardized tests measure what matters least, so if the scores are publicized there is a new culture created “with public shaming of those with low scores and congratulations of those who take time away from learning to make test scores go up.” On the other hand, meaningful learning, teaching, and assessment become possible when there is no testing.

Teachers feel controlled and pressured, and thus become controlling toward the students. Instead of steering towards a student-centered, inter-disciplinary, and rich curriculum focusing on a project based approach, instruction becomes teacher-centered, disconnected, and separately facilitated with no student input. As a result, many students may feel unsuccessful in their learning or even unsatisfactorily educated; as they have no say or active role in making decisions about their own  learning.

Kohn stated that these tests are implemented by people who do not know anything about learning or how children learn. Thus, teachers should take matters into their own hands by steering away from the goals of standardized testing such that instruction features play, engaged electives, field trips, discussions and critical thinking, all of which enable students to grow and learn in positive and integrative ways.

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