Testing has been around long before you and I could fill in a scantron, and it is likely not leaving any time soon. It is as ingrained in the school atmosphere as gym class and the recorder. That being said, could this atmosphere of testing possibly be harmful for students as well as teachers, or are some students blowing things out of proportion and complaining about a problem that is not there? The first factor to take into account is the amount of time testing eats up and how that shapes the school year. Testing on average takes up around 60 to 110 hours per school year with both prep time and actual testing*. Considering holidays and our many, many snow days and delays, this eats up a considerable amount of time.
One might ask themselves whether the time spent was worth it. There are varying schools of thought when it comes to testing, but there is not necessarily a “one size fits all’’ mentality, considering how each district tends to be unique and each has its own needs and wants. There are aspects of testing that do seem useful, like how they can keep teachers busy and hold them accountable, although this seems to be a double edged sword with some teachers losing their job from not teaching what the state deems essential. Testing does also help evaluate a student’s growth throughout their high school career and shows academic areas students need to improve. That being said, one could argue that these tests have little real world application and external factors could greatly affect a student’s score depending on how a student feels on a certain day. That brings into account the weight of these tests and how one off day of testing could totally wreck the future of a student. This, for many students, creates a considerable amount of stress. We all know how students feel about testing, but I think the opinions we have to consider are those of the teachers, especially since they are the ones affected the most and hopefully know considerably more on the subject than the likes of me. Here to give her two cents is our resident English aficionado, Mrs. Stone.
Q: Do you feel that we could benefit from the time we could get from less testing?
A: Of course. Obviously learning is only being done when we’re having instructional time. There’s no learning happening during assessment.
Q: Is teaching to the test a prevalent problem?
A: Not in my class room but I know in some classrooms around the world that’s happening a lot more.
Q: Has testing changed the educational atmosphere for better or for worse?
A: For worse. It’s tremendous amounts of stress on students and teachers, and that’s causing all sorts of negativity about school. People used to kind of enjoy school, now it’s just all preparing for a giant test.
Q: Are tests useful tools for holding teachers accountable?
A: They can be one of many measures. If it’s the only measure, that’s a problem, and one test is plenty, not twelve.
Q: How could testing improve and become better?
A: I think just more specific testing, fewer incidents of testing, and maybe shorter bursts of testing. Using pretests and posttests in class is good practice, and instruction and having twelve standardized tests in a year is counterproductive.
Like I said before, testing is not leaving any time soon, but I think there may be a silver lining. I see testing as a fine tool in theory, but in practice it has been a bit malformed. If the individuals in charge hear what we have to say and actually listen, testing could be the all mighty scholarly device that some hail it to be.