OPINION: Month of standardized testing is counterproductive

OPINION: Month of standardized testing is counterproductive

Travis Ryan

One of my teachers announced to our class at the start of May, “It’s now testing season, folks. We are no longer teachers, but testers.”As seasoned juniors, we all chuckled in a mutual understanding. Learning is thrown on the back burner at the start of May and the month becomes a cycle of cramming and testing. KPREP, AP, Cascade, EOCs and finals. Each one is important, supposedly. This month of testing really does nothing for education, however, and I have some thoughts on improving this system which should be seriously considered.

Tests are important. In an ideal world, education would be interesting and everything would “stick” with students. Whether the things we learn in school are important is a whole different argument, but testing at the end of the year is in a flawed state. Cramming for the, at least three, standardized tests that each student must take does not teach anything. Psychologists have insisted for years that cramming does work for some students in passing an exam, but it works for nobody in long-term learning of information. Although “finals” are important, and I see final exams as more important than some of those state exams like the Cascade, finals should be less about “facts” from the year and more about big ideas. I would prefer to take essay tests about grand themes and ideas from United States history that demonstrates mastery than learning date after date that I’ll forget on the drive home from school.

Something I do appreciate about the month of testing is that it isn’t a week of testing. Finals, AP tests, and EOCs are spread out as much as possible. The administration, or whoever makes these decisions, clearly understands the academic stress and burden on students with these tests. Maybe some of them just don’t need to be here though. Many of these tests have been in place for years and are used to measure different organization’s progress. The EOCs are used by the state for school accountability, while AP tests are only used for demonstrating individual achievement and acquiring college credit (which could explain the sharp difficulty curve between them). The Cascade tests (those Scantrons with your names printed on them) are also used by the state for benchmark measurements. Why not find a way to combine these with EOCs? I see the state as taking advantage of the school’s time by asserting these assessments. The KPREP test, aimed at student’s written abilities, is understandable, but not reasonable. The English section of the ACT which all juniors take is going to correlate, in some degree, with writing skill. A written standardized test is a serious burden on students who have to write for hours on end, and I’m sure grading these tests is not a simple task for the state as well.

The month of May (and now into the first week of June) is a waste of possible learning time. The worst part may be that many teachers can’t allow for that to happen with so much material yet to cover, so they still teach during May and early June, burdening students even further. There is a crunch time period that doesn’t make sense, and real education would come from less testing. This excessive testing is an easy way to major achievement of individual states, schools, and students, but the stress it creates is not worth those measurements.

I understand that different companies administer these tests for different purposes and collaboration is almost impossible with the system that’s in place, but this month of testing is not educational. It’s a hassle, particularly for seniors on their way out. It only contributes further to “senioritis” that our school tackles at the end of each year. Some sort of collaboration between testing programs or re-organization of testing dates and types of tests would help make the end of the year more education and more enjoyable for everyone involved.