early morning in a medium-sized classroom. Students are nervously taking a test. They
studied long and hard but find some difficulty. One student keeps tapping the pencil,
hoping an answer will come. Another finds that time is passing with several questions
unanswered. Some of the questions were not covered in class.
Hearts & Minds - Information for Change
Are These Tests Failing?
The effects of standardized testing
A controversial test
Standardized testing seeks to make sure that all students are educated well. It measures
their performance and the school's, for a limited range of math and English skills.
But the tests usually do not measure knowledge of history and society or reasoning skills.
These are desirable aspects of a well-rounded education and essential to preparing
active, free-thinking participants of our society.
A big plus is that standardized tests help to end social
promotion - students being sent to the next grade without passing some or all of their
subjects. Social promotion makes students' education even more difficult. It leaves
them to learn harder subjects without knowing the basics they need just to keep up.
On the other hand, standardized testing may encourage
students to memorize material instead of processing the information naturally, along with
the ability to reason with the information. Teachers find this issue distressing,
especially for younger students who can't memorize a great deal of material. Teachers feel
these tests are pushing children's limits too soon.
The effect on minorities
Minority students are often left at a disadvantage because the tests are
culturally biased, using language and ways of presenting information that favors more
prosperous students. English may also be a students' second language. This is
difficult when native languages are spoken in their homes and neighborhoods.
Minority students are also more likely to face poverty and
lack of parental education. Parents may also work several minimum wage jobs just to get
by, leaving little time or energy to help children with their studies.
How children cope
Facing the pressure of standardized tests, students try to cram too
much information in a short period of time. Memory capacity decreases from
the stress of one
high-pressure test that can decide whether they get left back to do an entire year over.
Poor test results may also make them feel insecure about their intelligence and encourage
them to give up.
A little history
Nationwide testing began when the "No Child Left Behind Act" was signed into law on
January 8, 2002 by President Bush. An example of its success is shown on The Business
Council of New York State website. It reports that 95% of the class of 2003 in three major
cities (Boston, Worcester, and Springfield) met that state's demanding graduation
requirements. This suggests that many students do succeed with these high-stakes tests.
Still, it doesnt convince many people.
According to an article in the Northwest Regional
Educational Laboratory website, 78% of the parents agree that it's wrong to use the
results of just one test to decide whether a student gets promoted or graduates. To
assess a student's abilities takes time. This is why the added pressure of one test
shouldn't be the only requirement for promoting a student. Still, the same website reports
that 82% of parents who knew their child's school was engaged in these tests thought the
job was "careful and reasonable." Thus, standardized testing remains
controversial, with many people having mixed opinions.
|Advice for Students: Ways to Prepare
Standardized tests have a way of getting the better of everyone involved but there are
ways to combat the bully. Start studying as early as possible! Material for a test can be
retained more easily if it is studied months in advance, making it more familiar and
easier to remember permanently.
The day before the test, do some exercise to get a good night's sleep.
Eat a balanced meal, including protein, but not too much, before the
test. If you feel stressed during the test, put the pencil down and take
a few deep breaths. You could also excuse yourself briefly from the
room; not to make a run for it but to provide a change in scenery for a few minutes.
Article by Denessa Bachelor, Hearts & Minds volunteer
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