Gabrielle Garcia ENG 101Professor UcciNovember 6, 2017 Standardized Tests: Our States Are Failing Us Standardized tests are not an adequate way to determine the intelligence or ability of a student. Someone who possesses interpersonal or intrapersonal intelligence will not be correctly tested for their abilities. Also, the language barrier among students can cause students to score poorly. Therefore, traditional standardized tests do not measure all abilities equally because there are many different skills that cannot be tested with pen and paper. According to The Glossary of Education Reform A standardized test is “any form of test that (1) requires all test takers to answer the same questions, or a selection of questions from a common bank of questions, in the same way, and that (2) is scored in a “standard” or consistent manner, which makes it possible to compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students.
” Two main types of standardized tests are achievement and aptitude tests. The Glossary of Education Reforms defines these tests as “Achievement tests are designed to measure the knowledge and skills students learned in school or to determine the academic progress they have made over a period of time. Aptitude tests attempt to predict a student’s ability to succeed in an intellectual or physical endeavor by, for example, evaluating mathematical ability, language proficiency…”.
The core goal of these test is to measure and indicate the intelligence and abilities of the student. The only problem is the tests are failing miserably at this goal. We let these tests weigh so much because “Like a drug addict who knows he should quit, America is hooked. We are a nation of standardized-testing junkies.” (Sacks, 5). The only data you can collect from the traditional standardized test is if someone is an efficient test taker. This means all other abilities are ignored because Standardized test scores don’t measure a child’s creative ability.
They don’t require children to research, explain, debate, elaborate, present, rebut, or improvise. They don’t demand public-speaking skills. They don’t reflect decades of research demonstrating that children come to school with an array of individual learning styles and perhaps nine or more different types of “intelligence,” only one or two of which educators can measure with a paper-and-pencil test.” (Jorgenson, 12). There is no category for how well you dance, write music, sing, debate, play sports, if you can have memorized lines from Romeo & Juliet, or even if they speak more than one language.
These tests can’t tell you if the student has test anxiety. Test anxiety can lead students to skip or even quit school. Students as young as third grade are fearful of not passing the standardized tests. Preposterously enough even if a student has passed all other requirements their diploma will still be withheld if they do not pass the standardized tests. (Phillips,53). There are too many qualities that aren’t examined by standardized tests such as creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity. (Bracey, p35) These tests cannot measure talent or abilities adequately, it only measures how well you can recite information.
These tests were created for the English speaking American population but English Language Learners are not exempt from these tests. ELL students are expected to score as high as an American student even though they may only know a few minor English words like “hi” and “okay”. If the test makers want to make the assessment fairer they would give non-English speakers the test in their own native language, but unfortunately, this is not the case.
Instead, the English Language Learners(ELL) are given minimal resources to help them such as a dictionary in their language if they are lucky. Even though test makers and distributors think this is fair it is far from it. Many students are doing poorly on our high stakes tests due to a lack of understanding of the complex English language. Non-English speakers often find it challenging to translate these tests into their own language and most times can’t translate the tests fast enough (Phillips, 52) ELL students often score needs improvement because of the barrier put up by the norms of the different cultural backgrounds. ELL students who fail standardized tests are held back because it is a requirement that they pass these test to graduate. The students aren’t the only ones being affected by this stress test. Teachers also must suffer through the test process.
The pressures of standardized tests often caused some teachers to de-emphasize or neglect untested subject areas (Koretz, Barron, Mitchell, & Stecher, 41). Teachers often “teach to the test” or rather overemphasize subjects that are on the test instead of giving students a well-rounded education. If the drilling of test materials into students brains doesn’t work teachers have also resorted to cheating. As incentives for high test scores increase, unscrupulous teachers may be more likely to engage in a range of illicit activities, including changing student responses on answer sheets, providing correct answers to students, or obtaining copies of an exam illegitimately prior to the test date and teaching students using knowledge of the precise exam questions. (Jacob, Levitt, 844) Using data from the Chicago public school district, the estimate of severe cases of administrator or teacher cheating on traditional testing happens in 4-5% of primary schools yearly at the least. The observed frequency of cheating appears to respond strongly to relatively minor changes in incentives.
(Jacob, Levitt, 843) The students who fail traditional standardized tests don’t just fail because they are ignorant, they can fail for various reasons. For example, Sue is originally from Korea, where her family used to eat Dog almost every night before moving to America. On a multiple-choice question, she chose Dog as the answer, and it would have been the correct answer if the tests were created and administered in Korea.
Another example would be Mary Anne is an intelligent and gifted student. She managed to get straight A’s for the past two years. The test was too easy for her so she didn’t take it seriously and she ran out of time to finish the test. Jorge made a mistake he saw the word embarrassed and instead of using a dictionary to translate it he assumed it was the same as the Spanish word embarazda, which means pregnant. So instead of writing about an embarrassing moment, he wrote about his mom being pregnant with him, which caused him to get the question incorrect.
(Phillip, 54) In these cases, you wouldn’t be able to tell the abilities of these students just by their test scores. In both Sue’s and Jorge’s cases a slight misunderstanding caused them to get the wrong answer to the questions. In Mary Ann’s case, she simply got bored and didn’t finish the test. If you relied on the standardized test to judge the abilities of Mary Ann it would lead you to believe she was unintelligent, which in fact is the opposite. Rather than doing standardized tests we should do Authentic Assessments.
Authentic Assessment is the examination of a student’s performance on worthy intellectual tasks. Authentic assessment requires more analytical thinking and performing skills, while traditional tests show if the student can “regurgitate” information. Authentic assessments attend to whether the student can analytically think to formulate scholar answers, performances or products. Conventional tests typically only ask the student to select or write correct responses without proper reasoning on how they got the answer (Wiggins, 2).
The best tests always teach students and teachers alike the kind of work that most matters; they are enabling and forward-looking, not just reflective of prior teaching. In many colleges and all professional settings, the essential challenges are known in advance–the upcoming report, recital, Board presentation, legal case, book to write, etc. Traditional tests are kept in secret to preserve the validity until the day of the test. This is rather problematic because teachers can’t properly educate students for these tests making it virtually impossible for teachers and students to achieve the confidence level that authentic assessment will give them. Students come to believe that learning is cramming; teachers come to believe that tests are after-the-fact, imposed nuisances composed of contrived questions–irrelevant to their intent and success. Both parties are led to believe that right answers matter more than habits of mind and the justification of one’s approach and results. (Wiggins, 3) standardized tests focus more on the right answer, while authentic assessment emphasizes the process of how to get the right answer.
Traditional standardized tests are inaccurately representing the abilities and talents of the student population. We should not stand for the inequalities that these tests bring. Standardized tests will never be able to properly test a student’s intellect because it doesn’t let the student show their talents or abilities, it only lets you fill in a bubble next to the answer you believe is correct. That is why we should stop standardized testing, and start Authentic Assessments, which will grade students on their intelligence and not how well they can fill in a bubble or “pencil whip” a test. I strongly believe that the only way to stop the inequalities of traditional testing and truly examine the abilities of all students is to stop standardized testing.
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