Less Stress = Less Tests
Standardized tests are something I have felt strongly about since the beginning of my testing career. No kid likes tests, okay well maybe some do, but as a general rule kids hate tests. I’m no exception. They’re asinine and inaccurate.
My state’s test is the MCAS, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, taken grades 3-10 with the exception of grade 9. There is a reading and writing section as well as a math, and select grades have a science. The questions themselves I never found to be too hard, the typical “If Daniel eats 3 apples and Frank eats 4, how many apples were eaten in total?” never really bothered me. It was the principle behind the whole thing. The energy and the time spent learning how to answer the questions is ridiculous.
In 5th grade we had a practice math MCAS open response due pretty much every week in preparation for our upcoming math MCAS. During math the following week we would go over the good responses, all student examples, and my teacher would tell us where and why people lost points. I always got a 3 out of a 4 because I never quite explained enough and therefore my work was never used as an example (that really busted my ego). You see, the question says “show OR explain”, but my teacher always insisted we “show AND explain”. But how do I show and explain that I added 2 and 3 together and got 5.
It was frustrating even as a young child to spend more time learning how to answer the MCAS than actually learning the skills. In past grades we would spend weeks practicing just how to properly format the answer, valuable time we could’ve spent actually working on math or english.
John Oliver, the most knowledgeable American who’s really a Brit, is brilliant. He mixes dry humor, facts, news, sarcasm, popular culture perfectly, yet also delivers a very informing spiel. Basically, he is my kind of guy. He sums up my frustration in an eighteen minute video on testing.
These tests are doing nothing for us besides taking time out of learning and giving more unnecessary stress to students. I take 28 benchmark tests, 14 exams, hundreds of tests and quizzes, and other tests such as MCAS, SATs, PSATs, ACTs, etc. a year. That is insane. The funny things is, teachers hate it too! They lose teaching time and then they have to spend more time grading the exams. Also, at least this is true in my town, if students do well, the teacher receives a bonus. But in other towns and states, a teacher’s job may rest on how well a student does. How has our education system become more focused on doing well on standardized tests than actually having kids learn. Education and school are not synonymous and it’s time for the United States government to recognize this.
Standardized testing is not the solution to ranking better in the world. Funding should be increased for lower income schools and the standard for education should be increased across the country rather than decreased. Yet increased funding is not the solution either.
Finland is beating nearly every country in PISA test scores and humiliating the U.S. who spends more time and money on education. #1 in math, reading comprehension, and science, Finland is doing something right. Most Finnish students have less than an hour a night of homework, shorter school days, nearly triple the amount of recess time, learn real world skills, and only have one standardized test throughout their secondary school education. And Finnish teachers are highly respected, paid nearly as much as Finnish lawyers and doctors, and not required to follow a certain curriculum. The U.S. education system could learn something from Finland.
Testing should be reduced in the United States and more effort should be focused on rewriting the system rather than editing it. I hope that by the time my children begin their education that there will no longer be the stress and pressure that surrounds standardized testing.
Interesting Article about Standardized Testing