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Standardized Tests

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Standardized Testing

Standardized testing has been a key part in education for awhile now, but how effective is it really? Does it truly grasp the students’ individualities to highlight their unique abilities? Of course it does not, how can it? If this is true, however, why are they still vital to earn a high school diploma? Education was once about the students, not about the score. It was about enjoying the time in the classroom, creating a desire to want to know more. Standardized tests have taken this away from classrooms, they have caused many pupils to not enjoy the material they are taught while also taking the individualism, the one on one individual experiences, out of the classrooms. Education is no longer about the individual student. It is about the student body, making everyone the same or “equal”.

Education should be fun. It should make the student desire to learn more. Francine Prose discusses this in her essay, I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read. She talks of how each September she is more and more depressed when she receives her sons’ reading lists for the upcoming school year. Not only have the books they are forced to read not the best choices, but the information from the books is forced down the student’s throats. Students are not given the opportunity to read the books and enjoy them. Upon receiving the their assignments, they are also given worksheets and other assignments,outlining the information and key points they are expected understand and pick out from the material they are given. This creates some what of a boundary on the reading. As Prose talks on page 180, of how the reason kids are not finding reading very enjoyable anymore is because of how it is being taught to them in the classrooms. Very few students will go above and beyond to attempt to understand the readings when it is not expected of them. High school students are teenagers; when teenagers do not want to do something and are told they have to, they do not enjoy it the way they would if they were to come upon it on their own and have the desire to explore it more. This is much like the standardized tests students are forced to take each year in order to graduate at the end of twelfth grade. Although students may excel at them and receive the scores expected of them, they do not enjoy the tests and begin to view them, first the tests then education as a whole, as a chore.

Standardized tests set limits on what students are to learn. They force administration and teachers to go over what information the kids will be tested on before they are allowed to teach anything else, therefore forcing the teachers to abide by what the tests cover. Education should be somewhat individualized for the students; it should be geared towards what they accelerate in, are interested in and what will be most useful for them in either their higher education or in their career paths. Ralph Waldo Emerson discusses this in his essay Education. On page 191, he expresses how important he feels it is to have an individualized system and to let the pupils have their experiences with the materials . “But this function of opening and feeding the human mind is not to be fulfilled by any mechanical or military method; is not to be trusted to any skill less large than Nature itself. You must not neglect the form, but you must secure the essentials. It is curious how perverse and intermeddling we are, and what vast pains and cost we incur to do wrong. Whilst we all know in our own experience and apply natural methods in our own business, – in education our common sense fails us, and we are continually trying costly machinery against nature, in patent schools and academies and in great colleges and universities.” Students should be allowed to branch out on their own a bit and attempt to get the most out of their education in a way that is beneficial to them. As Emerson speaks of in his essay, it is vital to have a one on one connection with the education and its materials in order to truly understand it. Students should not blindly follow and obey; they need to experience it on their own for true comprehension.

Standardized tests cannot truly measure one’s strengths and abilities. Students are unique individuals and no two are the same. These tests put everyone in the same playing field, whether they are good at the game or not. Tests such as the SAT’s focus on only three subjects, math, reading, and writing. If a student can excel at these subjects but are not good at timed tests, they are forgotten. These tests scores are the reasons many do not even get accepted or attend college. School is a time for young people to try different things and discover who they are or want to be. “The purpose of education is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions.” (Baldwin, pg. 197). Throughout their educations students are encouraged to branch out on their own; to not be afraid of what others think, to do what they want to do. How can school boards and administrations tell students to be themselves, yet force their educations to be geared toward the same thing, getting the score to pass the standardized exam. “By your tampering and thwarting and too much governing he may be hindered from his end and kept out of his own. Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of Nature. Nature loves analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his parent.” (Emerson, pg. 189). Society cannot thrive on repetitions, yet we attempt to make all students the same. Young people must be left to discover the world on their own; to embrace their own experiences, good and bad. Standardized tests are not geared for individualism and should not be left to determine one’s intelligence. Students must experience their life lessons and develop their own opinions on their own, not just based on what a teacher or test told them is correct or intelligent.

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