In a few weeks, students at public schools across the state will begin standardized testing. Assessments such as WESTEST have become a rite of spring for students in certain grades. Next year, WESTEST2 will be replaced with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Yet there are many more. At some point in their school career, students are likely to face the NAEP, TSAT, ACT Plan, ACT Explore, Compass and more standardized tests to measure various things that certainly seem worth measuring.
The results of these assessments are an important gauge as to where students and schools compare to their peers across the county, the state, the nation, and the world. It’s good information to know to see how well the education system is performing. Or is it?
Yes, some form of testing should probably always be a part of the educational process. But as formal assessments become a higher priority to school systems and government, the taxpayers who fund education wonder if the tests and test results have become more important to the education establishment than the actual education of students.
Sure, we can measure how well 9th graders across the state perform algebra, but can we truly assess the academic and life potential of each student through standardized, computerized multiple choice tests?
Isn’t it the classroom teachers, who spend so much time per day interacting with the students, who are the best assessors, instructors and motivators?
Local school staff bear the brunt of the frustration from parents and students for all the time spent testing instead of learning, but it’s not the teachers and principals that are causing the issue. It’s county and state administrators, state lawmakers, and an overreaching federal education department that, while good intentioned, whittle away the effectiveness of teachers and schools where it matters most – with the individual student.
“We don’t need the kind of school climate that puts scores ahead of scholars,” wrote retired teacher Deb Austin Brown in the Gazette-Mail last Sunday. “We don’t need the kind of high-stakes testing that pressures schools to cheat in order to secure elite rankings. We don’t need the kind of curriculum that is designed to teach to the test. We need schools that inspire and motivate kids to love learning and to work toward skill mastery and academic excellence.”
In trying so hard to improve schools, one must wonder of we are losing the art of teaching to the science of education.