Standardized testing the double-edged sword

by teddletonmr

Standardized testing debate heats up as American kids reportedly fall behind the rest of the world in academic achievement.

With all the talk about how far American kids have fallen behind in their academic pursuits, as compared to other postindustrial nations around the world, the standardized testing debate rages on. Enter the blame game, proponents of standardized testing clamor for more testing; teachers feel handcuffed, and still others blame the kids. Leaving parents, employers and educators drawing a line in the sand, all clamoring this or that will fix the education problem thereby creating new good paying jobs in the U.S.
One thing is certain, there is no going back to the good ole days when kids recited the pledge of allegiance each morning before school started, recited aloud their multiplication tables and other important facts which needed remembering for all eternity. Oh no, we have put men and women in space, and have come to expect to meet the brave new world with the acceptance of computers and smart phones just the tip of the iceberg and the American education system the Titanic.

Handcuffing teachers

In America, we pay teachers to educate students. After all, inside every kid is a doctor, lawyer, or some other professional awaiting proper instruction, motivation, and inspiration.

The thing naysayers fail to understand, today’s teachers in America, just like the family doctor, lawyer, and other professionals we rely on, are expected to perform educational miracles as a matter of routine. Paid to educate, motivate, and satisfy parental concerns, teachers find themselves responsible for today’s kids learning all the things they need to know, but are not afforded the authority, if you will, to make kids that simply do not want to learn a certain standard, who are distracted and caught up in the drama of the day or some other preoccupation, learn anything.


The blame game

Should teachers really be held accountable for little Johnny’s utter failure after some unknown reason, he has missed twenty-five days, in a single grading period? What about little Mary preoccupied with the drama of another girl rumored knocked up by her boyfriend? How about making allowances for the special education kids who have been mainstreamed, the athlete, or the politically connected students. Yes, it really does happen, every day in classrooms across the U.S.


Core standards

With both state and federal governments having different versions of core standards, requiring schools meet or exceed certain academic achievements before they will receive funding, local parents, school boards and administrators are at odds with both. What is a teacher to do, teach their students to pass the latest and greatest version of some standardized test? Instruct students of different cultural backgrounds how to assimilate American cultural values and education standards all the while observing political correctness?    

What are standardized tests anyway?

Standardized tests are quite simply, a tool used to validate core standards, teaching methodologies, and big business.

The mere mention of standardized testing is enough to make many good teachers’ blood boil for reasons most folks are gleefully unaware. While on the other hand, others only want to know how to teach their students how to pass a particular test, or set of tests for that matter. After all, who among us can blame them, in many cases these days their job, paycheck, and ability to provide for their family, are on the line.

The important thing, I believe we dare not forget, is there are many dedicated elementary, middle and high school teachers that really do care about their kid’s academic successes and preparing them for a meaningful life.

The problem many teachers face when teaching for standardized tests, what should their teachings focus on? Orders of operations, procedures, making clear the correlations of math, English, and science skills and the impact they will have on their daily lives, or techniques for passing the multiple choice / guess standardized tests?

Updated: 06/10/2013, teddletonmr
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teddletonmr on 07/17/2013

Thanks Katie for sharing your kid’s experiences with standardized testing. The truly frightening thing to me, many students attending schools today, due to either the want to, and or ability to, grasp the basic core standards. Utterly fail to acquire the basic skills and knowledge, we are told core standards are designed to meet and exceed. Providing our kids with a well-rounded education that is required for kids to pass standardized testing, compete, and succeed in today’s super competitive high tech world.

katiem2 on 06/27/2013

While much is said about standardized test both my children snore their way through them, completing the test in half the time given even while trying to take them as slowly as possible because they are not allowed to read or do anything other than look at the wall after finished and must remain in the room. They score 100% and marvel at how simple the test are, perhaps this is the issue with standardize test they are simple and mind numbingly boring. Since in high school both my kids are no longer required to take them, once you pass the freshman test and the high school equivalency test you no longer take them. They do take advanced placement test and international baccalaureate test but that's a whole other thing so I suppose I'm not qualified to discuss or weigh in on this issue.

BUT overall I feel educators miss the mark in stimulating all children's minds in educating as their hands are tide with the boring run of the mill standardized curriculum unable to spark the interest and achieve the light bulb moment in young minds. Learning just like sports must be a challenge standardized learning is anything but!

teddletonmr on 06/12/2013

Jo, of course, you are spot on with your assessment. The trick is to make learning fun with a purpose. Teaching the one size fits all approach and standardized testing fails to take into account the needs of both the kids at the top and bottom of the learning spectrum.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mike

JoHarrington on 06/11/2013

Surely the trick is to make learning fun, and to stop assuming that one size fits all. The problem, of course, is putting all of that into practice!

teddletonmr on 06/11/2013

Mira good to hear from you, I believe kids taking time to learn how to, and the importance of doing their homework is half the battle. Many kids here in the U.S. feel doing their homework, a huge waste of time they would rather spend doing something fun.

Mira on 06/11/2013

I once taught English to two nephews of mine, and all one of them wanted to learn from me was how to do his homework. He didn't care for actually learning English. He now gets better grades than his brother, who was making huge progress with me despite not getting the best grades. They both gave up because the first teen, who was more outspoken, decided it was a waste of time. Or something.

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