Standardized Testing Vs Education

For years our schools have been lagging behind other countries. Many students enter our colleges without the skills they need to succeed. In order to find the gaps in education educators came up with Standardized testing. Used in that way it can be a very helpful tool. I interviewed to Kay Sibley who retired after 33 years in education, she said “For Standardized testing to work it has it has to reflect what’s taught in the classroom. The results of the tests have to be applied correctly and used to help the students.” Unfortunately it has become a way to penalize teachers and schools. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is one example of this. If students don’t do well on the standardized tests then the schools and teachers are held accountable. NCLB was supposedly written with the purpose of improving education and to find those kids who are slipping through the cracks.

The intent of NCLB was to both increase education standards nationwide and to standardize curriculum from state to state. The Federal government cannot control what states require their schools to teach but they can cut Federal funding for states that do not comply with NCLB. NCLB was based on a theory of outcome based education, which is a belief that the higher you set the standards and goals, the better your results will be. Part of the thinking behind this law was that poor performing schools were only failing because their standards were not set high enough. For example, a school set in a poor neighborhood is only failing because no one expects it to do well. NCLB doesn’t take into account any of the environmental influences on the kids in the low performing schools. NCLB was one of the driving forces that turned standardized testing into the disaster it has become, because creates an atmosphere where the results are not utilized to help the students succeed and it doesn’t take into consideration the amount of support students are receiving outside the classroom.

Many children receive little or no support at home. In the best of these cases the parents are working a couple of jobs or long hours so they don’t have the opportunity to help their children with school work. In many cases though, parents view all education as the schools responsibility so children start out behind. We see kids entering kindergarten that don’t know how to color, glue or use scissors. As these same children enter higher grades, they don’t have anyone to read to at home or to practice math facts with. Today’s children arrive at school without breakfast and often have not had enough sleep, which results in difficulty focusing on their schoolwork. I’ve even been told by 1st and 2nd graders that they had to stay up really late. I don’t know what the exact statistics are on hungry students but the number ranges somewhere between 16% and 40%. I am guessing that the huge discrepancy between figures is that the criteria of the studies vary greatly combined with the fact that parents are hesitant to admit that their children have to go to school hungry. However none of these facts are taken into account when it comes to standardized testing. This is important because if a child is sleepy or hungry, they are more easily distracted. It also takes them longer to process the information and to answer the questions. They are also more likely to make mistakes or misread the questions and answers on the tests.

Teachers with years of experience are having a difficult time keeping up with all the changes and the accelerated pace that all of these standardized tests create so how can we really expect for kids to cope? If they are a child who is running on empty because of lack of sleep or food, then it becomes close to impossible. Heaven help them if there is a learning disability thrown into the mix. In my interview with Mrs. Sibley she stated “More students need accommodations than are getting them. To give a standardized test to some students is insane. Because of the learning difficulties some the students have.” It’s true that states are required to give accommodations to students who qualify under modified learning plans but what about the child who has processing issues and is only a few points away from qualifying for special education. These are the students that really need extra support but because of lack of funding and lack of staff there are only so many kids who can be caught in the special education net. We should be eliminating the costs of standardized testing and using those funds to support our students instead.

 

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