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Double standards

Standardized tests hurt critical thinking

By Jessica Wise & Lauren Moreland | Contributors

Photograph by Elyse Horb. Pictured: education majors Lauren Moreland, left, and Elyse Horb, right, discuss standardized testing.

Photograph by Elyse Horb. Pictured: education majors Lauren Moreland, left, and Jessica Wise, right, discuss standardized testing.

Jessica Wise is an English education major and Lauren Moreland is a math education major. Both are seniors.

Standardized testing is a necessary evil. Some educators believe academic standards are unrealistic nuisances, though others believe they are essential for equal education. The biggest problem is that they often require standardized testing. Ideal academic standards should consist of things like portfolios and projects. However, with the limited funding schools receive, it’s financially difficult to hire enough people to evaluate formative assessments in a standardized manner.

Because of the emphasis on standardized testing, teachers cease to impart important, standard academic skills and instead focus on test-taking skills. In math classrooms, teachers only show students how to use functions instead of how to make deeper connections. The same issue arises in English classrooms: students learn how to read and understand a text, but not how to connect that text to other sources, their own lives and human nature.

Many teachers don’t truly understand the content and don’t know how to think critically. They’re supposed to prevent shallow learning, yet they practice it themselves. This is especially important in secondary education. As students age, they must learn to make increasingly critical connections between subjects. Otherwise they’ll struggle more and more as they advance through school.

Though standardized testing is necessary, it is unrealistic to evaluate teachers based on their abilities to raise every student in a class to a certain proficiency. Standardized testing is supposed to be a checks-and-balances system to prove that the government’s money is paying off, but the tests are often misused to evaluate the educator’s teaching ability instead. This evaluation fails to consider the state in which students enter the class. Students who enter eighth grade with a third grade reading level will struggle and their performance will be severely impacted.

It’s good to have a required proficiency level for students, but it would be better to cross-reference standardized test scores with the students’ scores from previous years to show how much they’ve grown. Teachers, in turn, should be judged by the growth rates of their students. Assessments shouldn’t be static; each student has different abilities and growth levels.

The discussion on education standards tends to be focused on whether measurement, proficiency or growth best showcases both students’ and teachers’ abilities.

Even if you are not a teacher, this matters to you. Someday you may be a parent. And even if you are not, this will still affect you, as the children in the American education system are the future of our country and our world.

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