Every year thousands upon thousands of children, ages seven and upwards sit down to take their scheduled standardized tests. This generation has been classified as the most tested in history. “Its progress through childhood and adolescence” has been “punctuated by targets, key stages, attainment levels, and qualifications” (“Stalin in School” 8). Each year the government devises a new standard and then finds a way to test how each student measures up to this standard.
They have come to the conclusion that the easiest way to chart the success of school reform is to follow the results of standardized testing. But rating education strictly by the numbers is the wrong way to measure a process as complex as learning, and teaching kids how to memorize facts and remember dates is an altogether different achievement from teaching them how to make sense out of new ideas and experiences. This system of testing currently used is based on academic standards. These academic standards are clearly written expectations of what every child should know and be able to do at specific grade levels. They usually only test the core school subjects such as math, science, language arts, and social studies. For example, “in Wisconsin, the standards were written for English/Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science at the 4th, 8th, and 12th-grade levels” (“Standards and Assessments Q&A”).
These standards are usually written by educators, and parents serving on special committees and sometimes by commercial test makers. However, as you will see these standards do not cover true learning. True learning involves teaching the students to think logically and form their own conclusions based on facts and inferences, not memorization and regurgitation of facts. These facts would be useless to the students if they were not able to use logic to connect these facts and make educated decisions.
Nevertheless, the core school subjects do not include this. According to Brady, “School subjects are just convenient organizers of information. As all effective teachers know, the real challenge isn’t to stuff kids’ heads with secondhand information, but to teach them to think, to draw inferences, generate hypotheses, formulate generalizations, explore systemic relationships, make defensible value judgments, and so on. ” Education is not about how well a student can memorize a subject. It is about motivating the student to think and come to logical conclusions and hypotheses on their own. This being the case, the standardized tests are not conclusive and accurate of what education and learning are.
However, many people feel that these tests do not measure any sort of knowledge, but rather indicates the economic background the child came from. According to Kohn, a major spokesperson on the damaging effects of standardized testing, “What standardized tests actually measure best is the economic backgrounds of the groups that take them” (Gallagher). If you broke down the income of the test takers family and measured it in increments of $10,000 you would get a graph where for each increment of income the student’s score would undoubtedly increase directly. This is because higher-income areas have more teaching resources readily available which gives the students a varied and comprehensive learning environment and also attract more qualified teachers. The high salaries and vast resources available attract many well-qualified teachers vying for the space.
Therefore, the school district has an advantage of a larger pool in which to choose the most qualified teacher. These factors can give the students an advantage which makes the standardized tests a poor scale of students or schools progress but rather a good scale of their economic background. As the weight of standardized tests increase, so does the stress. Many students are feeling overly stressed by the vast number of tests they are expected to take and pass. It is pounded into them that this is your future, if you do well you will succeed in life or if you fail your life will follow.
This stress has caused thousands of high school dropouts who get overwhelmed and don’t feel they can make the grade. Some students get fed-up and at certain points become noncompliant. But the students aren’t the only ones who are affected by the stress of testing.