Standardized Assessments: A False-False Test, Ruining Education

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Question #1:

Synthesize the information from the article, poem, and short story above. Then, imagining you are from a middle-class, suburban, English-speaking home, choose which of the following statements is FALSE.

A. Students, much like the tests we make them take, are standardized.

B. The testing culture encourages individuality and promotes a sense of adventure.

C. A student’s poor performance means the teacher didn’t try hard enough.

D. Lengthy testing periods are a fun and productive use of teaching time.

E. All of the above.


Students are definitely NOT standardized.

While it would be ideal to see every child achieve at the same high level, standardized testing fails to account for so many factors that are beyond the control of both student and teacher.

standardized test bubbles

The testing culture stifles creativity and takes the fun out of learning.

Think back on your own education. What do you remember? For me, it’s the field trip to see a dramatization of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It’s fifth grade sleepaway camp. It’s the solar system I made from Styrofoam balls. It most assuredly is NOT the time I spent filling in bubbles for standardized tests. And yet, the more emphasis we place on these tests, the less time and permission teachers have to create more meaningful learning experiences for our kids.

Student test performance is a largely invalid measure of the work teachers do.

In my district last year, it was announced – on day two of a three-week testing window – that student test scores would not be factored into their grades. How hard do you suppose students tried on their tests after that? And for the years when the students are held accountable for their performance, there are always kids who know they can’t pass the class (and therefore don’t bother trying). There are kids who might have tried harder yesterday, but today they missed breakfast. Maybe they were up all night. Maybe they just broke up with their girlfriend. Or maybe they know the material well, but they froze up due to all the pressure we put them under!

Lengthy test periods severely impact overall teaching and learning time.

We’ve all heard of teaching to the test. And what about teaching ’til the test? Many schools, especially those with limited technology, are forced to essentially stop regular classes for weeks at a time in order to get all of their mandated testing done. Isn’t this counterintuitive to the overarching goal of adequately covering our standards?

Question #2: 

Based on the text you just read, which was written in Old English, which of the following statements is generally FALSE? Draw upon your knowledge of Germanic vocabulary in your response.

A. Testing data provides boatloads of specific, useable information to guide teachers’ instruction.

B. Even though teachers are not even allowed to look at the tests, they feel 100% confident that the randos who wrote them did an impeccable job.

C. It’s totally fair for students to miss questions they actually know, just because they are unfamiliar with the online testing tool itself.

D. We should keep funneling money to big testing companies and let teachers buy their own paper and staples.

E. All of the above.

Time’s up! Pencils down. The answer was E

Testing data is quite limited in terms of its ability to guide instruction.

Often all we receive is a one-page summary that shows our students’ overall scores. Maybe they bombed on punctuation. Maybe it was vocabulary. We’ll never know.

testing stress

There is very little confidence among educators that standardized tests are even well-written.

Having tried my hand at various practice tests, I have encountered many test items where the answer was unclear or even arguably incorrect. I have also heard complaints from students about confusing writing prompts, grammatical errors, and other things that reduce my confidence in the quality of tests that we, the educators, never see.

A lack of familiarity with online testing tools may unfairly hinder students’ ability to demonstrate their actual knowledge.

Some students, unfamiliar with the online testing application, are unable, for example, to figure out graphing tools that would allow them to correctly answer a question. Students should not be penalized for their failure to intuit clunky systems.

The money spent lining the pockets of big testing companies could be better spent furnishing schools with essential resources.

Oh, imagine what we could do with all the money we pour down the testing drain each year! Number one on this teacher’s wish list? More planning time for arranging field trips, staging plays, and creating lessons the kids might fondly recall someday….

Remember that time you chose ‘C’ on the multiple-choice test? I don’t think so.


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I'm a public high school teacher specializing in English and Theatre Arts. On any given day, I summon the energy five times in a row to fire kids up about Shakespeare or semi-colons or the virtues of getting to class on time; then I move all of the desks out of the way and rehearse the school play in a building with no actual theatre. I love my kids, and I love teachers, and celebrating them is one of my favorite things in life. At night, I write.

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