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Are tests how we reform education? – edu|FOCUS
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Are tests how we reform education?

Education reform is a big buzzword these days. Everyone is talking about efforts to reform education, yet the one thing that has seemed to change are the tests themselves. Underneath all the rhetoric, issues, and complaints, the question has to be asked, are tests how we reform education?

With all the recent talk of standardized testing and how it’s a problem on all sides, I started thinking back on my own experiences with the standardized tests of my grade school days. I grew up in PA, so I had to take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades. I remember that the rest of the school had the day off so there were no other distractions for the grades involved. I remember in 5th grade that we were allowed to wear pajamas and bring snacks and other comfort items to school so we would feel relaxed while we were tested. I don’t remember much about the middle school testing, but in high school we had the building to ourselves for a few hours to take the tests a little at a time, and then have the rest of our school day as normal.

Even though we were assured that these tests would not affect our grades, I remember the teachers seeming like they were a little more on edge, as though their jobs depended on the success of the tests (which they pretty much did). But with their silent stressing, the importance the school placed on providing an “appropriate” testing atmosphere, and the stress that naturally comes from being tested, it’s no wonder students hate it. And because students hate it, parents hate it. Teachers hate it because they are the ones being judged on the results; plus it cuts into valuable classroom time.

I wouldn’t say that school administrators like testing, but they do hold it in high regard since it’s basically their job to appease the state in order to get paid salaries that are in many cases, quite hefty. That leaves the test makers, who are the only ones who make a profit from this, so of course, they love it.

We’ve mentioned many times how standardized testing should only be a measurement of students’ progress and retention, and not a corporate profit tool. And I think that this aspect should be the focal point on why we need a reformation on education assessment. Even though there are plenty of other reasons why standardized tests as they stand today are more of a hindrance than a help, the reason that makes me the most upset is that corporate greed is running American education, and not enough people are talking about it.

Education policy makers state that Common Core standards need to be met, so teachers need to push a curriculum that caters to test results. The test-makers are then paid to create a new standardized test based on the new Common Core curriculum standards. If the tests show poor results, than schools need to revamp their syllabus to meet the new requirements. In order to meet those requirements, they need to teach from books that are Common Core approved, so publishing companies release new textbooks that are “Common Core Approved,” and make money. Nowhere in that cycle does anyone question whether or not the new standards are actually beneficial to students. Everyone just seems to be doing their job.

I remember at one point during my testing days being told that we didn’t have to worry about the tests because they wouldn’t affect our grades, but to still take them seriously because they were important. That’s a lot of confusing and unnecessary stress to put on a child, so why do it? Why place so much importance on this one test that “doesn’t matter?”

If parents, students, educators, and taxpayers (since all that corporate profit comes from our tax money) could rally behind this one aspect, I think that more progress on education reform could be made. More than anything else, we need to focus on putting education back into the hands of those who educate, and stop letting the big companies dictate what needs to be taught.

So what do you think stakeholders? Are tests how we reform education? Assuming you think there’s a better way, share it with us.

Tracey Woodard
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