Editorial: Standardized failure

Recently, President Obama called for reform to standardized testing, something we’ve needed for far too long. He released through Facebook a video briefly detailing what this reform would look like. He asks that testing makes up no more than two percent of class time and that each test should fit three criteria: must be worth taking, should enhance teaching and learning, and should give us an all-around look at our students’ and schools’ performance. Obama ran on the denouncement of standardized testing but hasn’t made a reduction to it since his 2008 election, and actually implemented his education initiative Race to the Top which encouraged states to adopt the Common Core (and thus a new set of standardized tests). Obama's recent announcement finally shows signs he may come through on his promises, and make an effort to fix our failing education system.

President Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, also made a well-known attempt to fix our education system in his No Child Left Behind policy. NCLB passed through Congress with bipartisan support. The idea was to test students every year in order to identify and fix failing schools as well as diminish the economic and racial inequalities in the children’s quality of education. NCLB increased the number of federally mandated tests from six to seventeen. Unfortunately, students don’t enjoy taking so many tests. Who knew?

The major increase in testing has taken a toll on the stress levels of students. The pressure is too high to the point of kids crying and throwing up. In fact, kids throw up often enough that there are official instructions for test administrators in the case of a child puking on their test.

Schools, particularly elementary, have turned to borderline propaganda in order to calm the nerves of their students. School parody videos of pop songs can be found on YouTube with lyrics such as “can’t read my, can’t read my, no you can’t read my test taker face” or “Hey, we can do it! And this is crazy but I’m determined so test me maybe?” The cult videos depict small children cheering and clapping as they thrust pencils in the air with naïve smiles on their faces.

Teachers don’t like the new surge of tests either, especially when their professional evaluations are linked to the children’s scores. In some states, if the students improve on their tests the teacher will receive a higher teacher rating. The opposite applies if the students fail to improve. In one Florida case, a sixth-grade student did not match her projected grade which was above the highest possible grade to receive. Even though she attained that highest possible grade, she impacted her teacher’s rating negatively. That has to change. The testing system is too faulty to be relied on to educate America’s children.

The only group these tests benefit is the testing industry, the leading company of which is Pearson. Every student knows and hates Pearson. A student could study for Pearson tests using Pearson curriculum from Kindergarten through eighth grade all the while being taught by teachers who were certified by a Pearson test. Pearson has grown to encompass forty percent of the testing industry yet they have a history of technical glitches, slow grading, and poor test questions. They are known to have hired test graders through Craigslist and test graders have been told to meet a quota for scores. Another problem is that test takers must sign to not reveal the contents of the test. Although they say this is to halt cheating, it restricts complainers from pointing to exact aspects of the poor test. As far as we can tell, America’s increased testing has helped Pearson more than American students.

President Obama’s recent interest in education reform and testing restriction is an important one to consider. It is absolutely necessary to fix the problems we have created. No Child Left Behind was supposed to increase international test scores and narrow the achievement gap. The gap hasn’t changed and international test score have actually decreased. Hopefully, Obama’s new plan will make progress in healing America’s broken educational system.

This opinion piece represents the collective opinion of the LSNews.org editorial board. Its lead author was opinion editor Aaron Davies. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Lampeter-Strasburg School District, Lampeter-Strasburg High School or its administration, or the faculty advisor of LSNews.org. Questions or concerns can be directed to lspioneernews@gmail.com.


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