There's no standard way to learn

November 17, 2017

It’s 1:52 in the morning. Papers are scattered all over your bed. Binders and textbooks lay open and fourth cup of coffee sits on your desk. A video on how to ace standardized tests plays on loop as you alternate between working on a test prep book and trying to comprehend months of material in two days. You want the madness to end, but your whole life you’ve known that a bad test score means no college, which leads to no job, which results in an unsuccessful life.

While this depiction isn’t 100 percent accurate, this is the anxiety and stress many American students go through every year, come standardized testing season. From congress to the state level to the classroom, standardized testing and the validity of it has been heavily debated. When taking a look at the evidence, it is clear that standardized tests are an inefficient way to judge student growth, accompanied with a plethora of other disadvantages.

Standardized tests have been a part of the US education system since the mid-1800s, according to the National Education Association. According to the book “Education and Youth Today”, after the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act (2002) and Race to the Top (2009), standardized testing increased to its highest rate. Schools that receive an F score and don’t have a sufficient “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP), face sanctions, the possibility of being taken over by the state or being closed.

These provisions ignore the uneven distribution of resources to schools and assumes that they have complete control over the learning process. As of result, disadvantaged or inexperienced schools who have “failed” suffer financial deprivations, reductions in staff and school closures, according to the Education Leadership website. This creates even worse conditions for students who were already at a disadvantage, dropping their scores even lower and moving away from the original intent of the tests. Moreover, this perpetual cycle causes standardized tests to specifically hinder English learners, special-education students and students with low test-taking skills or testing anxiety.

Consequently, educators are teaching their students to do well on standardized tests, instead of learning and retaining the material. Rather than schools fulfilling their societal duty of supplying the youth with the knowledge they need for life, they teach limited curriculum and testing tricks that appeal to the test guidelines set by the states. Teachers lack the freedom for imaginative lessons and students lack wiggle room for different, creative learning methods.

Standardized testing has also been shown to be a poor representation of intelligence. Human intelligence is a convoluted concept, much too complex for scantron sheets to determine. The straitjacket “one-fits-all” system of testing disenfranchises many students whose scores tell them they aren’t intelligent, despite this being inaccurate. With varying types of intelligence and creativity for every student, it's misleading to believe that standardized testing are an appropriate measure of it.

Overall, standardized testing causes unneeded stress on students to get that perfect score. Its inability to accurately measure a person’s intelligence and its unessential weight on academic success renders it unnecessary in the education system.

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