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Op-Ed: What we should do about standardized tests

Suppose one day you get home from a long day at school. You’re exhausted from your extensive studies and extracurricular activities. You arrive home add quickly started your homework so you can spend the rest of the day relaxing or enjoying one of your hobbies. Then, when it’s time for dinner, you arrive at the dining table to find a big booklet, a number two pencil, and a Scantron.

Your parents tell you, “If you wish to have dinner, you must pass this math quiz with a 90 percent or higher.” It’s an absurd notion, yet for many testing can sometimes feel this way.

After all, if you do not excel in your exams, you won’t get into a good college and you won’t have a good life. It can feel as if your life is dependent on multiple choice questions. Though I generally fair well on tests, the anxiety of it all sometimes gets to me, and no matter what preparation I do, I never feel as if I am prepared. Testing can really take its toll mentally. I’ve always felt that with something that can be damaging to people, it is important to analyze it and ask why it exists and if it is even necessary.

With something so ingrained into the American education system, it may be difficult to even question it’s validity. Tradition is always something people have difficulty questioning and changing. When we look at other parts of the world, we can see that the thought process has changed. For instance, Finland is considered to be one of the countries with one of the best education systems in the world. Though there are many factors involved in determining this, one that stood out to me was the fact that there is only one standardized tests students have to take at the age of 16.

This is a huge gap compared to the 112 standardized that a student in the U.S. is likely to take between kindergarten and grade 12. Standardized tests have been used to track many things like student performance as well as school performance. This system is meant to hold schools accountable for their teaching in order to ensure that students are receiving the education they deserve.

On paper it looks like a good plan, but in practice we see something different. Unlike the Finnish, who trust teachers to provide a strong education, U.S. schools focus on testing in order to look good. In some occasions, actual learning takes a backseat to test preparation.

I experienced this firsthand this school year with the SBAC testing. My math class postponed all the lessons in order to review for preparation of the SBAC. Instead of learning the actual material of the class. Over two weeks were spend just for review, and the following two were spend testing. I had spent a whole month of school with testing occupying the majority of my thoughts. After it was over I felt a great relief, nothing mattered but the fact that it was over, and now that is I have the ability to reflect.

In my own opinion, I feel that’s testing has been a detrimental aspect of my education rather than one that has been useful. Years and years of standardized tests had numbed me to the experience, but gaining further perspective has made me aware that education does not have to be this way. I think that we should move away from the large amount of standardized tests we currently have, and put emphasis on the classroom. If we gave teachers the resources and time spent on testing to do things they believe to be more beneficial, I think that our education system could improve tremendously.

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