Given a suggested list of topics for a required speech, Hallie decided to chose her own, writing about high-stakes testing. She provides a provocative student-eye view of the system. This high schooler observes, "Our classes are like bombs, and in each one, if the teacher doesn?t figure out the code in time, well, you know what happens."
As long as we are ready to pass every test given by the county, state, or nation, what should it matter what you have accomplished in the course, or what you have actually learned? Sometimes, that is how it seems. Every student in this class is required to pass the English 10 H.S.A. to graduate. Every assignment is preparing us to pass the English 10 H.S.A. Every English class since sixth grade has been preparing us for this test. The outcome of this and many other standardized tests decides the future for some, and for others, the end. Courses that are used as standardized test preparation instead of designed for learning and long term retention are not beneficial because they are unfair to students with test anxiety or elevated stress levels, don?t give teachers enough freedom to teach how and what they want to, and don?t emphasize learning.
Students who have test anxiety or are prone to high stress levels know the information on these standardized tests, but they achieve poor scores because of anxiety. True, these cumulative tests are stressful for anyone, not just those with excessive stress. However, for students with test anxiety, these tests can be extremely frightening, and they can end up receiving low scores on them, even though they know the information. County, State, or National tests can damage the futures of students with anxiety. If a student fails one of these tests, they mess up their entire high school career. They are placed into special classes designed to help them pass standardized tests, which are great for students who don?t know the information that is on the test, however, usually, students with test anxiety do know the information. It is truly unfair to expect students who have bad anxiety to achieve their optimum scores on these tests because they are so much more stressful than other regular tests, which can cause students to achieve poor scores. We can help students with anxiety just like we help those who don?t know the information. Why can?t part of graduation requirements be something of a lower pressure nature? Some students would be better off doing a final project or paper in addition to the standardized tests. This would cause much less anxiety in students. This would help students prepare for college. This would emphasize learning and retention of information. This would be a good solution for all students, and would especially help those students with test anxiety that are unfairly represented in full by standardized tests.
Teachers are not given the freedom to teach how or what they want to. We all probably know from experience that happy teachers make happy students, and many teachers are not happy teaching to a test. Teachers are given goals that they must reach through a strict pacing guide, and their students must pass the tests. Teachers are not given the freedom to use their own activities or teach extra material because they have to teach the material on the test. Our classes are like bombs, and in each one, if the teacher doesn?t figure out the code in time, well, you know what happens. Teachers have to fit in all of the information on the test before it is time to take it, usually before the course is even over, or else the students do poorly and the teacher faces consequences.
Teaching to the test doesn?t put emphasis on true learning or retention of information. More emphasis is put on passing the test. Students are told that they don?t have to worry about certain topics, that they?re not on the test. Many times, upper level students are told that they only need to know certain parts of a topic, or that they don?t need to worry about truly understanding a topic, because the tests are low standard, and designed to help students pass, from the lowest level classes to kids taking A.P. How is a student in level 2 classes supposed to take the same test as a student in Honors classes? They are not at the same level, so the test is designed to make both students pass, meaning it is a lower level test. The fact that they can pass without fully understanding a topic teaches students not to go above and beyond, and teaches students to settle for a minimum understanding, doing low quality work. Students taking Advanced Placement courses are taking college level classes, in which the emphasis should be on learning and retention; however it is really on passing the test at the end. Students learn test-taking tips instead of information.
What are students in high school for? Are they here to take tests? They shouldn?t be. We should be here to learn information, to take knowledge away, use it in future endeavors. It isn?t fair to have our futures rely on the outcomes of tests. In the future, we can?t just spit out ?A, B, C, D.? In the future, we can?t scrape by with a minimum amount of knowledge. In the future, we won?t be able to remember what we learned in high school. Our generation is in control of the future, and we have a thing or two to learn before we graduate.