Opinion: Putting Students to the Test

By Jake Gingold

Susan Sluyter was a Kindergarten teacher for more than 20 years at Cambridge Public Schools in Massachusetts. In her resignation letter, she says, “In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a NHSgreyhoundlogoteacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children.”

Mrs. Sluyter is talking about the increase in standardized testing throughout the nation. The new Common Core State Standards are appearing in standardized testing in an aim to determine the skill level of students, which also works as a way to evaluate teachers through student performance. Naugatuck High School is experiencing standardized testing at the moment.

Juniors at Naugy have been taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment test, an exam taken on the computer measuring math and English/Language Arts skills. “I feel like it’s just another pointless test,” said Kyrstin Schofield, a junior at Naugatuck High School.

“I do not feel that this measures my intelligence, because it’s just another score,” fellow junior Norma Fayad said. “I feel that the test is unrealistically hard. It’s like a college-level test.”

While students are not happy with the standardized testing, how do teachers feel?

“I think standardized testing is just a brief snapshot in a moment of time and it doesn’t capture the student’s full abilities,” said NHS English teacher, Mrs. Messenger.

These responses beg the question: Why conduct these tests if no one wants to take them?  In 2012’s Programme for International Student Assessment, a standardized test taken by students around the globe, the United States ranked 26th out of 34 nations who took the test. China came in first.

At a time when education is such a large part of American teenagers’ lives, these test scores obviously appear to be disappointing. But comparing U.S. scores to others around the world can be misleading. In some countries education is available to those who can afford it, unlike the U.S., where free, public education is a right. Chinese cities Shanghai and Hong Kong took the international test, not the impoverished regions in the vast country.

What the Common Core standards don’t do is take into account that American students are more than a test score, and that it is unfair to base someone’s knowledge and potential on one grueling, standardized test. Studying for these standardized tests will not make someone smarter. Teachers shouldn’t be robots and teach only what the standardized test tells them to teach. Teachers need to be creative and come up with their own methods of teaching, because everybody thinks and learns differently.

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