A few weeks ago, I emailed Dr. Wirt, the WCPSS Assistant Superintendent for Academics, to educate and inform me about the the recent PLAN test. Since I still haven’t heard back, I will explain to you what I currently know about standardized tests.
Pearson Education, McGraw-Hill, and other companies that create standardized tests will all say the standardized tests are important for both students and schools. But how are they important? Supposedly these tests measure what content (math, science, English, etc.) you are strongest in and what content you’re weakest in, as well as a student’s success after high school.
How can one person be defined as a number? How can someone’s “success” be based off of how well they fill in a bubble sheet?
People are beginning to find out that standardized tests may have no educational value. According to W. James Popham, a standardized test is any examination that’s administered and scored in a predetermined, or standard, manner.
But what do they actually test? Marion Brady, a writer for The Washington Post, noted that “teachers teach, learners learn, and standardized tests monitor how well the process is going. The tests measures the amount of information taught, minus the information not taught or taught and forgotten. The test yields a precise number which is then used to sort or categorize students, teachers, schools, school systems, states, and even nations.”
There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that states, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.”
I find this very relevant in our conventional education system. Today, there are three styles of teaching: telling, showing, and involving. Current standardized tests test the first two approaches. These tests want to see how well students can regurgitate information. Students, such as myself, will spend hours looking through notes and videos in order to take a test on all of the information. A year or so later we may only remember a portion of that information.
The third approach is the only proven way students can retain any form of information (whether it be information like how to solve an algebraic equation, or soft skills like how to work in a group or team).
According to Marion Brady, “involved learners aren’t just reading about plants; they’re outside, identifying, examining, and classifying, the weeds and whatever else is growing around the school.”
In the past, a week before a test such as the EOG our class will rush and cram in subjects that we didn’t touch on in depth. But once we take the test, a portion of those subjects that we spent hours studying for weren’t on the test.
Most standardized tests are so secret and hush hush that teachers, or even the principle, hasn’t seen the material that is on it. So since students are the first to see inside the test, how do teachers know if what they’re teaching is the right information?
When it comes to the workplace, you’re SAT or other standardized tests scores aren’t necessarily a determining factor on whether or not you’ll get that dream job or not.
Companies such as Microsoft look for people who not only know technology and computer language, but other skills such as being a leader and a team player. The latter skills are ones that can’t be acquired by bubbling in circles on a sheet of paper.
Maybe instead of giving more tests to “prepare for our future”, students need to be taught trades, or soft skills. To truly be prepared for our future, testing us over and over again to get similar results, may not be the best path to take.
I will continue to update my article when I hear back from the administrators.