Standarized Tests – Fact or Crap?

Standardized tests mean nothing. Well, to a parent and a child they could mean nothing. They shouldn’t be as stressful as they end up being. To a teacher, administrator, or school…those standardized tests mean everything and that is where the pressure is coming from. Why is that? Schools are graded by the scores the students receive and then budgets, hiring, textbooks, equipment, etc., are ALL based on standardized test scores. Here is the problem; the schools that do well on those tests get the money, the textbooks, and the better teachers. The underprivileged schools that have low test scores get nothing. Do you think it’s actually possible for those students and faculty to ever be able to pull themselves out of that vicious cycle?

I am of the opinion that if all of the students knew that the standardized tests didn’t mean anything and they could fill out (b) for every answer and not get penalized (which in theory they wouldn’t), they would. I did it my final year in high school. That is one of the highlights of my “sticking it” to the man during my rebel years. I sat today administering the test to several students and I saw the stress in the form of sweat on their brows. Why are we beating our kids up through standardized tests to prove that the adults are doing their jobs?

George Bush, the almighty and formerly powerful, enacted a policy that so far has been held up since 2001, called No Child Left Behind. In theory, it really is an awesome plan. Let’s make sure all of our kids do well and give federal funding to our schools based on test scores. One of the things we don’t talk about is, how in 2014, if something doesn’t change, ALL students even the ones with special needs and the students who don’t read or speak English, will be required to pass their standardized test at grade level. Is that logical to you, because it makes no sense to me, and I have gone to graduate school for two and half years to understand our educational system and I am still baffled.

These tests are given to students all around the country. They may have different names, yet they all serve the same purpose. They judge our teachers and administrators on the information retention rates of the youngest members of our society. Our children control our budgets and who ever really thinks about that? That’s a lot of weight to put on any kid. Good thing they don’t know that or they would stress out even more about the test than we could imagine. That or they wouldn’t give a rats ass and fill in all of the bubbles haphazardly because they aren’t getting graded just like I did.

I had a student tell me that her mom instructed her to do well on the test otherwise she would fail. That is wrong. The student will not have an academic impact, at all, directly. If many students don’t do well, the funding stops, and then teachers are sharing textbooks. So maybe if they fail, we all fail.

I see how parents can be misinformed. Maybe this is a big secret that I am not supposed to be sharing. I can’t really imagine that to be so, yet it seems like the more people I speak with, the less they really know. The biggest problem is that parents don’t know the questions to ask because they don’t know that they need to ask questions in the first place. Doesn’t that seem ironic?

Is it important for you as a parent to ensure that your school gets all of the funding it needs? Of course. What are you going to do when your school starts to fail in 2014 because students can’t obtain the lofty goals that are written into NCLB? I would be pissed if I were you. Changes need to be made, but they need to be made at the highest of high levels.

So now that I have said that, I want you to be able to reach out to your child’s teacher and become friends with them. They aren’t the enemy. In fact, we want what is best for your child. It just so happens that we tend to be seen as the enemy. We are always under so much pressure to perform. We have to get your kids to perform. We have to be happy when we are sad. Happy when we are frustrated. Happy when we are being screamed at by parents. That is a lot of stress on a daily basis. Then we have to worry about having our kids learn Math, Reading, and Writing over all other subjects. Science and Social Studies are lucky if they show up in the school schedule. Be happy if your child is receiving a well rounded education. Not only be happy, but be grateful. You see, we don’t get scored on our performance in those areas, so a lot of times, those are subjects that don’t get as much attention. Math, Reading, Writing, Math, Reading, Writing….are you sensing a pattern?

I recommend this book as my parting gift. Check it out. Diane Ravitch was one of the biggest promoters for NCLB and now speaks against it fervently. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

If you want the inside scoop – email me, I will tell you as much as I know. I will give you the straight answers. And I am sure you have realized that not all of us are as friendly as I am, but that’s ok, it doesn’t ever hurt to ask questions. Unless you get that mean 80 year old teacher who reeks of whisky and cigarettes. You may want to skip talking to her.

2 thoughts on “Standarized Tests – Fact or Crap?

  1. Student ISAT scores are sometimes used for class placement and scheduling, so their performance can impact their own lives, too.

    I think the plan will be to phase out NCLB by 2014 as the Common Core Standards take precedent. It’s still sounding like the Common Core tests will be computer-based, and will occur at multiple points in the school year over very specific standards each time. Lawmakers still seem focused on making teacher evaluations based on student scores (at least 30% by 2016), which I don’t necessarily agree with. I think student scores should only be used if there’s a trend of mediocracy.

    1. I agree with some of your points. Where I am, we use RTI for our students and CBM for placements and goals. It wouldn’t behoove a teacher to ignore the standards altogether. It would be quite scary altogether if teacher ignored them, yet I am sure there are teachers out there that do. I have yet to see the review process of the ISATS, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of weight that is held to actual performance from what I have seen. Hopefully the re-authorization of NCLB will move more towards core standards. There are just so many gaps and how do we address AYP? If schools don’t have the resources, it would be almost impossible to reach it, therefore less funding. It’s like the great schools will always get the money. I am biased though as I don’t care for the way that Illinois as a whole runs our educational system. Although when it comes to where we place in comparison with other states…we are far down on the list. It’s one of the main reasons I am looking to move out of state. I have a real problem with the way our system as a whole is run. Not just the testing as I know that’s nationwide.

      As for those common core standards, what would the time length be in the implementation process? To get every school in the USA to meet core standards seems almost impossible as a majority of the wacky guidelines of NCLB. I just don’t have enough faith in our highest of high educational leaders to find a way to implement everything that is needed to roll that out. And I don’t think Lawmakers should be guiding the process. People who know education should be running the process and hopefully those people have a clue. Scores of students should reflect upon the teacher somewhat, but full funding or funding at all, should be based on other things or other things, as well. Too much is riding on one standardized test for my liking.

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