Standardized testing is something you’re bound to come across in public schools as soon as first grade. I remember taking test after test as a public school student, and I can’t really say I ever got anything out of it. These tests are putting so much pressure on teachers and students a like. A bunch of old men sitting around a table who’ve never even stepped foot in my school can make a test and say that it evaluates what students have learned as a whole. The problem with standardized testing, its just that, its standardized. Humans strive by working with their peers, giving them the chance to directly feed off of what others are thinking. However this is being pushed aside by the hustle and bustle of teaching a multiple choice test. Standardized testing is being over used and abused. How we are testing, who we are testing, why we are testing. We need to evaluate if its really worth all the money and trouble in the end. According to the teachers on the receiving end these tests seem to be doing more harm than help. Teachers feel they are just teaching a multiple choice test now to assure that their students do well. Testing also takes money, resulting in many districts cutting programs such as arts. Standardized testing is also a money making business, someone out there needs to sell these tests to your school district so they can take a pay check home. Most teachers have a negative attitude about testing because it bring more heartache than help. This needs to be evaluated to assure that we are getting some positive useful information out of our tests.
Each time a new test is given out to teachers they receive a booklet on the material that could be on that test. This is significant because a class scoring poorly on any standardized test can result in the teacher being fired. However most teachers find it hard to implement the testing material into their everyday routine. I find that to be somewhat concerning since the test is suppose to be an evaluation of an overall grade level. According to the Texas Education Agency Student Assessment Division these tests are made by both them and Pearson, who describes themselves as the worlds leading learning company.
Then they are reviewed by teachers that determine the objectives thats should be important in each grade level. Those are then given to educators who determine how to test those objectives and develop guidelines outlining eligible test content. Then a blueprint is created that is reviewed by both the TEA and teacher committees. After all of this is said and done the test items are testing on Texas students. This is how the TAKS came about. In order to assure their students score well most teachers do what is called “item-teaching.” This is when a teacher teaches items that where actually found on the test, or they provide their students with mock items that look just like those found in the test. For instance if a question from the test says “Kaitlin had 3 apples, but then bought 5 more. How many apples does she have now?” and the teacher rewrites a problem saying “Patrick had 2 oranges, but then bought 3 more. How many does he have now?” She is item-teaching because the cognitive demand has not been changed. What we really want our kids to be engaged in is curriculum-teaching. This requires educators to direct instruction towards a specific set of cognitive skills on a given test. This allows the teacher to target instruction to test represented content instead of specific test items. Teaching to a test is only teaching our children how to take a test. Its not teaching them how to critically think and solve a problem. For instance the math test was the hardest one for me as a student, and even tho I never really knew how to do half of the problems I taught myself how to go backwards since the answer is on the page. However if you asked me to do the same problem without giving me multiple choice answers I wouldn’t be able to because I never actually learned how to do it, I just learned how to put the puzzle that was on my page together.
Another reason standardized testing is becoming an issue is because its a money pit. As I mentioned before these tests are made by a company. Someones job and company relies on how many tests they are selling to your school. In Texas about three million students are tested each year, thats a lot of paper and ink but the cost doesn’t stop there. KXAN news did an in-depth investigation that uncovered the state of Texas spent more than $89 million on the STAAR test last year. All this money goes right into Persons pocket. Remember them? The “worlds leading learning company” however I don’t really recall being taught anything by any standardized test I was ever forced to take. This company develops the test questions, prints, distributes and scores all the tests before they are sent back to the 8,000 schools that give them. According to KXAN the state has a five-year contract with Pearson, from 2010 to 2015. This contract totals just over $468 million dollars. Thats a lot of tax money. By 2015 Texas taxpayers will have paid around $1.2 billion dollars for developing tests and related material dating back to 2000. This has resulted in school cutting back in other areas such as art and music programs. As a high-schooler I was big into choir, I had been a dedicated choir student since my 6th grade year. Being involved in something really gave me the motivation I needed to get to school and do good. No pass no play was something that was plastered everywhere in our school and in our heads. It gave us a reason to goto school. If you take all of the incentives away from these kids why are they going to want to stay in school, especially in an age where a college degree doesn’t guarantee you a job.
It amazes me that six year olds are now given standardized tests. That sounds like a good way to groom them to have some major testing anxiety as they grow older if you ask me. Renee Travis is a recently retired first grade teacher of thirty years from Pflugerville, she is also my mom. When she retired in june of last year it literally felt like the entire family retired with her. I was often asked by my mom to come and help her in her class room on test days because wither testing as a whole or one on one a six year old needs step by step help. Now imagine giving a multiple choice test to 26 of them at the same time. By the time you’ve gotten all of the material passed out half of them are crying and the other half has already colored the entire test. If an outsider walked in at that moment they would think we were torturing these poor children. Mrs. Travis is suppose to stand at the front of the room on her overhead with her copy of the test on transparencies and read each question to all 26 students who are not engaged at all anymore. This is nearly impossible. Its actually humorous what these kids do to their tests. Now because these kids are so young my mom has to take all 26 tests home that night and bubble all 26 scantrons alone. I know from experience that this sucks. Neither my mom or I get paid enough to sit around and bubble 26 tests, however I kind of feel like Pearson gets paid more than enough to do a little scantron bubbling. Not to mention that she has to take more than half of these tests back to school the next day and spends yet another day wasting time reasking the kids who circled the entire page one-on-one what answer they want to pick. After all this work at least she can use these scores to better her kids right? Wrong. Although the teacher is always expected to have better testing results as each test is given through the year you can bet your bottom dollar that $89 million dollars doesn’t even get the last test scored and returned with ample time to use the results before the next test is given. Maybe we should stop supporting a company and start supporting our teachers. $89 million dollars can be turned into a lot of manipulatives, and art supplies that are now so hard to come by in any given texas public school.
All in all standardized testing seems to be bringing more heartache to the teachers and students involved than help. Teachers have an overwhelming pressure to get their students to score well, or else their jobs can be in jeopardy. This is causing teachers to teach the test not the overall curriculum. Testing takes millions of dollars each year, resulting in things that are perceived to be less important being cut. Such as art and music programs. Lastly most teachers hate testing. They dread going to work those days just as much as the kids, and whats it all really for when they can’t even get their results returned fast enough to implement them. These children are our future and we are teaching them over and over to pick one right answer. However there is rarely a time in the real world when one right answer is all there is. We need to start teaching kids how to find the answer, how to collaborate together and feed off of each others ideas.
I can remember countless class debates and group conversations from my past schooling but I couldn’t repeat one test question. I really think that as a society we need to reevaluate our education system starting with teachers salary. Quality teachers are hard to come by these days because they get paid nothing, and no they are expected to do so much paper work its insane and all for nothing really except a piece of paper thats suppose to show the world how smart your specific school is. Everything about education should be revisited starting with teacher salary. When the educator who taught your heart doctor how to preform that life saving surgery makes at least around the same pay we might be on the way to positive change in our schooling systems.