Standardized Tests Suck

Standard is defined as an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations. synonyms: guideline · norm · yardstick · benchmark · gauge · measure. I have never met a “standard” child because there is no standard child, and yet in public education we always hear about benchmarks, standards, scores, grade levels, etc. Why do we put all our children in a box and define them by a score on a piece of paper? Why do we limit how we measure intelligence? Why are we training our children to be good test takers? I do not how our view of intelligence or how our measuring stick of what a child is truly capable of became so narrow, but we have to change what we are doing.

Basically, standardized testing is a way to determine the academic achievement and potential of students. But when the skills of American students were ranked against others around the world, America didn’t even rank in the top tier. A lot of the tests given are also very challenging but at the same time, they don’t really reflect a student’s ability. The tests do not really assess skill as the questions have to be generalized for the entire population. In short, the test items are not in conjunction with classroom skills and behavior. What standardized tests do is assess the general knowledge and understanding of students rather than their actual ability. The questions on the tests are general in nature, and it’s hard for teachers to know how to improve students’ understanding of a particular topic based on general information alone. What this does though is allowing teachers to “teach to the test” rather than educate students properly based on the needs of the classroom.

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education” Albert Einstein

Take Clinton for example, my child will never be a good test taker – he will make spelling errors, grammatical errors, he will reverse the letters b, d, p and q, it will take him longer to read the questions then it would for most to complete the test and those are just facts relating to how his brain works. He could however not only tell ten more facts about the subject matter then you asked for but draw you a picture explaining how it all works and how it could be better. I want my child’s knowledge to shine through in real life situations, in experimentation, in projects, in practical application not test taking. Growing up I went to catholic school for my elementary years and I was a fantastic test taker, but the problem is I couldn’t tell you anything after the test was over and I certainly couldn’t show you. My high school years I went to a vocational school and almost twenty years later I still have a working knowledge of everything I learned in my chosen vocation and that is because I was tested everyday by doing, by applying.

We have to think bigger, we have to expand how we view knowledge. Take the scoring away, take the letter grades away, take the testing away and just let children learn without the pressure of constantly being graded. As human beings we are capable of so much more then we allow ourselves to believe we need to break the barriers that public education puts in front of us and our children, we need to fight for change in our schools.

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Alarmingly, 44% of American students in grades 6-12 do not feel a sense of self-worth at school. Philadelphia high school junior Nikki Adeli knows firsthand the challenges that young people face navigating standardized tests. Through the story of her own real-world educational experiences beginning in Mississippi by way of Iran, Nikki reminds us all that the value and purpose of schools is to grow a citizen not produce a good test-taker.

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