Test Scores: Really?

Cross-Posted to LiveJournal and The Angry Redhead.

So LiveJournal bumped into me again today.  As usual, it was their Writer’s Block question that got me going (anything else I post up there is usually popular-media related.)  The question was this:

How do you feel about standardized tests?  Do you think they accurately indicate a student’s knowledge or ability?

I think I could go on forever with this subject.
I hate standardized test.  Hate them with a firey passion.

First and foremost, they don’t work.  Not in the least.  I think it’s really stupid to think that you can tell how good people are doing overall in school just by a simple test.  Testing your knowledge in certain subjects (like a classes periodic math tests or tests on a chapter in history) measure how well you’re learning the material and who needs help with what.  Then the teacher can accurately target students who need help in certain subjects.  This is how children learn.

But a standardized test is a test meant to test a large number of students on various things all at once.  It doesn’t take into consideration a number of things.  For instance, scores vary day to day even on the same test due to emotional state and well-being.  Tests for adults are more reliable but they give these tests mostly to children in elementary school.  They are not objective, as humans put it all together, and they are not reliable either.

Many of these tests don’t accurately teach what they should either.  For instance, a good English test will involve a lot of reading and questions that reflect how well you comprehended the reading.  They will include essays and long written passages so that it reflects your understanding and ability to communicate that understanding.  Many English tests I took in those grades had a passage you read, and then multiple-choice questions to answer about the reading.  Seriously?  How does that do anything but allow you to guess at what might’ve been right if you didn’t understand it?  This is why we have kids who go through school but are still illiterate or have a huge disadvantage at the reading levels.  Math tests should give you equations and problems to work out on the paper.  This way the test reflects how well you can work toward your answer.  Instead it gives you the equation and you pick the answer from multiple choice, with all the work on a scrap sheet of paper.  Does this sound wrong to anyone else?  Yes.

Also, standardized tests are one of the things that college’s don’t look at.  It doesn’t matter if you do well on a test and not in class.  If you don’t have a good GPA, then no college will admit you.  There are actually people with this problem. So to stress these tests to kids isn’t going to help them in the long run.  Unfortunately they need to stress the test because the governments look at them and decide how much money the school, etc can get in grants based on these grades.

This forces public schools all over to do exactly what I hate: they teach the test.  Students are no longer learning things they’ll need for the future.  They are learning what they’ll need to pass the test and make the teachers and school look good.  Unfortunately, this is not a “oh you have bad teachers” situation.  You have teachers pressured by the principal and school to teach the test, who are pressured by the school district and superintendent to teach the test because the government says “well get your test scores up or you get no money.”  This can be blamed directly on the government and that stupid No Child Left Behind Act.

Child not doing well in school?  Well the school has low test scores which means it’s their fault so you can put them in a different school.  What-the-what-what?  Ever think that if the child isn’t doing well it means you should help the child rather than blaming the school?  Perhaps the child has trouble learning, and it’s not the teachers or the materials fault.  It means YOU as the parent need to help your child along and get them the help they deserve, rather than blaming it on something else.  That’s YOUR responsibility.

The increased accountability pissed me off too.  Mostly because it says “implement more rigorous testing and do it more often, that’ll solve the problem.”   Piss off, no it won’t!  It’s not the test’s problem.  It’s the school’s problem and by making them teach the test you’re doing a grave, grave disservice to the children themselves!

Ow, my brain hurts again…


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