Shhh… we’re testing

Opinion Editor
Tests – it seems there is always one more to study for.
Students are bogged down with assessments, mechanically going from one class to the next, thinking not of what they are learning, but of what they will be tested on.
This ineffective system of learning is dismayingly prevalent throughout the nation, perpetuated by state and national standards that can only be judged by more testing.
The Council of the Great City Schools, whose motto is “the nation’s voice for urban education,” has representatives from over 60 school districts. According to the Council, students spend 20 to 25 hours each year just taking standardized tests.
And this figure does not even brush upon the amount of time devoted to preparing for these exams.
This use of this time wouldn’t even be so bad if it served a purpose.
If standardized testing ensured that students nationwide were living up to the standards and improving based on their scores, the tests would be a gift to our education system.
However, as the Council of the Great City Schools pointed out, “there’s no evidence that adding testing time improves academic performance.”
Michael Casserly, the council’s executive director, further stated in an interview with NBC that the tests “[do] not necessarily do what any of us want our tests to do.”
For one thing, the test results are returned months after the tests are taken, by which time it is too late for teachers to offer specialized approaches to instruction based upon testing strengths and weaknesses, according to the New Yorker.
Another issue with testing is one of relevance: state or nationwide standards simply cannot be relevant to every classroom in every school in every district – there’s just too much variation.
In an interview with NBC, Brooklyn public-school teacher Kishayna Hazlewood said of necessary standardized test preparation in the classroom, “what it does is it keeps [me] from really giving [my students] what [I] know they need because [I’m] giving them what [I] know the test says they have to have.”
Teachers like Hazlewood must stick to strict guidelines in order to ensure their students can pass the tests, regardless of what they know will be most beneficial to their students’ learning.
The Obama Administration, recognizing these issues and acknowledging its own role in setting the standards for many of these tests over the last seven years, released a statement this month reducing standardized testing in schools.
Since some exams have been shown to help level the playing field for students across financial situations, a number have been kept, but these tests are limited to no more than two percent of classroom time, according to NBC.
With less of an emphasis on testing and more on learning, the future of the country’s education seems to be making a change for the better.