Too many tests

The point of school is to learn. Frequent standardized tests in the classroom can take away from learning time without adding anything of real value to students’ high school careers.

Often times, students are over-tested. Having too many tests can take away from time in the classroom, and often result in teachers giving pointless assessments and benchmarks for the state’s data collection. When given moderately, standardized tests are a good way to see how well a student understands or performs in a subject — they can also be either a confidence booster or an incentive to work harder.

In the past two weeks, Leesville sophomores have been slammed with standardized tests. We have endured three tests in the past two weeks: the PSAT, the PLAN test and the English benchmark for those enrolled in English II this semester.

The only purpose of the English benchmark is to project how we were going to do on the EOC. This was a test to take a guess at how well we are supposed to do on the English II EOC at the end of the course. It did not compare me with other students, show me what areas I excelled and lacked in, or give me a grade on how well I understood English II.

The only information I was given about the benchmark was that my whole class got 3s and 4s; which really didn’t help me at all.

I understand that this is also a benchmark for teachers to see how well their students are doing in certain areas of English II. However, I would think that a “benchmark test” can be given in the form of a quick quiz on the grammar we have learned or a short reading piece with comprehension questions, rather than a standardized test that takes an entire class period.

Meanwhile, the PSAT had a total of 48 reading questions and 39 writing questions and the PLAN had 25 reading questions and 50 English questions. I think that is enough questions to cover what reading material needs to be covered. So, why was the reading benchmark 80 minutes and 45 questions long?

The English EOC benchmark took valuable time from actual learning in the classroom. We could have been learning to think critically, a far more valuable skill than test-taking; but instead we were stuck taking an exam that, for most, didn’t require us to think much about the content of what we were reading. So, if it didn’t really teach us anything, its only purpose is data collection.

The purpose of the PSAT is to prepare us for the actual SAT, a college entrance exam. It is also the qualifying test for the prestigious National Merit Scholar award. In order to be submitted for National Merit Scholar, you must take the PSAT junior year, but Leesville students must take it sophomore year as well. Why are some students having to take this test twice?

PLAN, a preparatory version of the ACT, is designed to show career aptitude while preparing students for taking the ACT. I don’t need the state to tell me what I want to be when I grow up. I think just about everyone in high school is smart enough to figure it out on their own.

The state testers don’t know me: they don’t know what subject I like the most, what I like to do when I’m not studying, or how I interact with people. Therefore, they can’t accurately make such a judgement about me. Say someone got a really high score in math and science on the PLAN — the state might tell them that they should be a doctor. What if that student was shy and introverted? In that case, they might be better in a job that doesn’t involve working with people: like a research scientist or a statistician.

In general, colleges only require you to take and submit scores for either the SAT or the ACT. Why do sophomores have to take preparatory tests for both?

Everyone has a different path that they are trying to take. These different paths require different amounts of effort in different areas. One person’s path might be to go to a prestigious university and become a doctor — someone else’s plan could be to avoid college altogether and open their own business. These different people have different requirements in different areas that they must meet.

These two tests have taken away from valuable class time, and we can’t afford to lose time in block scheduling. It would be more beneficial for students to have time in the classroom learning rather than to take a test that might or might not ever benefit them.

Block scheduling barely allows for teachers to finish their curriculum without the interruption of in-school standardized tests. Missing two days of classes for testing in block schedule, like Leesville sophomores did this past week, is like missing 4 days of that particular subject — that’s almost an entire week of school, gone.

Basically, the reason for all of these tests is that the state needs data. The state isn’t exactly testing us for our own benefit, but rather their own. I have to go take a three hour test, instead of doing a lab to learn about chemistry or drawing themes from a book in English class, so that the data-obsessed state can do tests to see how I stack up with other kids. The state also uses this data to compare the schools and teachers against each other. This causes the school to put extra pressure on students, especially the high-achievers, to make exceptional test scores.

True, it is nice to know how I my scores compare with the other kids in the state. But, how many times do I need to be compared to other students? I take the same test every year: I also get about the same score every year. With that said, of what benefit is it to me to take a slightly harder version of the same test every year, which yields the same results?

For two days last week, I was stuck taking test on my knowledge instead of gaining knowledge. Not for my benefit, not for my teacher’s benefit, but for the state of North Carolina’s benefit. To me, this is wrong.

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