With this emphasis on getting good testing results, many teachers decided to sacrifice teaching critical thinking and advanced problems, and instead substitute the minimal knowledge that is needed on a standardized test. For example, a seventh grade teacher will try to perfect students’ ability to use the Pythagorean Theorem in order to obtain the measurement of sides and angles of a right triangle.
But on the other hand, real life applications and word problems of how the Pythagorean Theorem can be used to find unknown distances and heights, as well as angles of elevation, will be less of a focus because there is less of a focus on longer and wordy problems on standardized tests. An educator needs the freedom of having time to inspire critical thinking in his or her students by allowing the students to move past the basic skills. But thanks to standardized testing, “Instruction has been reduced to teaching to the test.
The very instructional strategies that should be used to create and promote democratic values in the classroom are now replaced with mundane skill-drill-kill exercises whereby children do not think for themselves, critically examine possibilities, or take risks (Solley). ” It does no good to use test scores as ways to evaluate teachers as Johnson puts it because, “Students aren’t simply passive vessels, waiting to absorb information from their teachers and regurgitate it through high-stakes assessments (7). ” The goal of education should really be reconsidered.
The effect of standardized testing on a child’s developing brain directly affects and limits an individual’s opportunities and success in the future. The American College Test and Scholastic Assessment Test, commonly known as the ACT and SAT, are both standardized tests used to determine a student’s academic knowledge and skills in order to identify which level of colleges and universities they can handle. The ACT Inc. calls their test an indicator of “college and career readiness” and college boards trust their numbers to reflect just that.
Although it is known that college admission boards take into consideration many other factors, such as grade point average, extracurricular involvement and class rank when accepting and rejecting applicants, it in inevitable that students are still turned down because their standardized tests reflect that they are not “ready. ” As a result, high schools all over the nation put great emphasis on these college admissions tests that are administered nationwide to each high school junior. It is true that standardized testing is a method for colleges to rank and then select students by expressing each student’s capability as a number.
This number is useful because otherwise it would be very difficult to rank such a diverse group of people, each with his or her own strengths and achievements in different fields. Although this solves the problem of having to weigh the significance and precedence of each individual’s past success over another individual’s success, as well as it may be the easiest method, there are several big flaws in taking something complex and simplifying it. Standardized tests inaccurately express a student’s potential because there are many outside factors that come into play during the testing process.
Some of the greatest factors are emotion, stress, and physical condition. A student’s ability to actually sit down and concentrate on the exam will vary depending on how they are feeling that day. A lack of sleep may make it hard for the student to focus on what is in front of them. Same is true when a student goes into a test emotionally unstable. The feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness caused by something that happened near the time of the test can take the student’s mind off of the material.
And of course, with all the preparation for the test, stress and anxiety can get the best of any student that does not control their panic when they open their test booklet (Ndirangu, Muola, Kithuka, and Nassiuma). Many health journals indicate that it is necessary for children to learn anxiety coping skills. This could possibly eliminate this outside factor that affects test results. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these coping strategies differs depending on the individual.
In addition to this, standardized tests have been widely accused of being racial and culturally targeted. For years, tests such as the SAT, have been attacked by reviews such as the Harvard Educational Review and Princeton Review that claim they are a “white preference test. ” According to such critics of the CAT exam, Cognitive Ability Test that is administered to younger students, it has, “become a virtual truism that the average performance of racial and ethnic groups (especially Blacks and Whites) on CATs differs, sometimes by as much as a standard deviation (Helms).
There are numerous statistics that indicate the gap between test results based on culture and race due to the content of such tests. It is possible that race and culture are outside factors that come into play when students take standardized test; however, it is important to keep in mind that this is still a pending debate as studies try to determine the validity of this statement by examining it from different economic and psychological perspectives. Because of outside factors, there is no correlation between test scores and post high school achievement.
If colleges factor in standardized test scores when accepting students and these score are often inaccurate, there are many students who have the potential to succeed in college and receive a career that are not being accepted and challenged intellectually to expand their mind by colleges that match their level of possible potential simply because of their test score. Standardized testing has good intentions, but it harms many students because it shuts doors of opportunity when it comes to higher education and career choice.
In 1989, the Posse Foundation was created to give these students, who aren’t exactly good test takers or simply didn’t do well because of an outside factor, a fighting chance. This foundation has, “identified, recruited and trained 4,223 public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential” but not the standardized tests to prove it, and then awarded these scholars with scholarships and the chance to go to a participating college or university that otherwise would have overlooked them in the selection process.
According the Posse Foundation’s data collection over the years, 90% of its scholars graduate and go on to make a difference in their community and professional career (Hanson 2). ACT and SAT may claim to measure “college readiness,” but in reality the test does not reflect a student’s potential or capacity. The test can, however, hinder students in taking the next step after high school. In his 2012 State of Union Address, Barack Obama directly spoke of the need for educational reform pertaining to innovative and critical thinking.
Standardized tests have been taking control of education in the United States; therefore, Obama urged the government to, “in return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn (Obama). ” If schools are teaching to the test, they are not doing their job in providing students a proper educational foundation in order to build the rest of their lives upon.
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, hits the heart of this with his bold statement indicating that, “test mania won’t get our children or our country where we need to go (Weingarten). ” Schools all over the nation need to challenge students, allow them to develop their own ideas and passions, in order to positively shape their own future and the future of this nation.