| 03.18.2018

Pressure to perform


Standardized tests are not beneficial to public ed

In Atlanta, eight educators were sentenced to varying degrees of punishments for racketeering because they artificially inflated students’ standardized test scores.

Claire Whitley

Claire Whitley

Racketeering, as defined by a legal dictionary, is obtaining or extorting money illegally or carrying on illegal business activities. It is usually a crime associated with organized crime syndicates, so why are educators being charged with it?

Well, like many school systems in the U.S., funding depends on the scores of students on standardized tests. The higher the scores, the more money a school or school district receives.

Naturally, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on teachers and administrators to produce high test scores. But, this pressure is often tenfold for students.

As someone who went to school for 13 years in Idaho, I have felt those pressures. Several years of my education were pointless because my teachers taught with just the tests in mind. Instead of learning valuable information, we spent months and years learning about nitpicky details.

I spent the month leading up to a science ISAT learning how to read a table. Tables aren’t hard to read and understand.

English classes were ground to a halt in the weeks leading up to tests. Instead of working further into Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” we took spelling tests and completed grammar workshops. We read short, simple sentences and identified proper nouns, verbs and helping verbs.

Understanding grammar is important, but it would have been much more beneficial to learn those kinds of things within the work we were doing.

Teachers shouldn’t stop an entire class for a month just to teach for the test. Hearing “You’ll see this on the ISAT,” or even “You’ll see this on the ACT,” was the teacher’s not so subtle way of hinting at why we were really doing the work.

I was a number. I was just a score that would either help or harm my school. I was tested on a small portion of things, less than half of what I was learning inside and outside the classroom.

I can’t imagine how accurate the ISATs are. There is no “standardized” test, even among standardized tests.

Based on our scores on those tests, we were categorized. We were either successful students or failures because of one number. I don’t think this is fair. Not everyone learns and understands all the same things. I’m no smarter or more successful than others in my class who scored lower than myself.

I came out of high school and nearly drowned in the way college classes are taught. There are no standardized tests to teach to, so I was learning information that actually mattered. I wasn’t prepared for multiple tests in a semester or the in-depth analysis we had to do on particular topics.

Students are overwhelmed in college classes because we are not seen as though we are simple numbers. But when it comes to public  education, they should be viewing students as much more.

Claire Whitley can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu or on Twitter at @Cewhitley24

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