Opinion: Standardized Testing

America is falling behind in education compared to the rest of the world. And standardized testing is to blame.

Opinion: Standardized Testing

Submitted by a Waukesha South sophomore

What if I told you that just by mentioning two words to any K-12 student, that I can get them to instantaneously develop a sense of unease and dread? A fear, to some, greater than even that of clowns or spiders. Those two words: Standardized tests. Standardized testing has been around for decades, and quite frankly, shouldn't have been allowed to. From both physical and mental health concerns in both teachers and students to profiteering run rampant, there are many reasons that standardized testing needs to become old news.

First, why has America alone become so obsessed with testing? It all started with the second Bush administration in 2001, the birth year of older sophomores and younger juniors. The creation of the brand new No Child Left Behind policy was brought to life as a response to low rankings of the U.S. in international education proficiency. It was designed to narrow achievement gaps. However, if the NCLB was created to narrow these achievement gaps, was it successful? Multiple studies, such as Reardon, Greenberg, Et Al., 2012, have found virtually no evidence to support this theory, and some studies suggest that the opposite may be true. So why do we continue to perform these tests? It certainly isn't for education, and it's not as though anyone would be allowed to capitalize on the success of children.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. According to Reuters, the U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages 5 through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors. That is huge. Despite difficulties in accessing the education market due to the web of politics weaved around it, the few companies who have staked a name in this lucrative venture have profited massively. Let us take a look at one of the largest testing companies out there: Pearson. Here at Waukesha South, we use Pearson materials in Human Geography, U.S. History, and Physics. To give you an idea of their reach, Pearson’s website markets well over 150 different tests. Typically, the cost to users of these tests starts at $250, and just increases from there. With tests from identifying ADHD to English Proficiency, it is estimated that Pearson controls 40% of the market. With a majority like that, and a society that is based on testing, we face a frightening scenario. What it boils down to is that a group of men in suits somewhere are using you! Using me! Using our teachers! Using us all as slaves to their benefit! They reap millions and then billions of profits yearly just because we as a society have deemed that we must continue this grueling act, despite it gaining us nothing! This needs to stop. The profiting off of us, off of our teachers, off of our eventual children, and then eventually off of their children must stop now.

Finally, we as students understand the stressors of testing almost universally. Yet there is one group that we usually don’t think about, but are affected just as much as we are; the teachers. We instinctively blame the teachers for our testing pains because we see them as the ones forcing us to do them. Alas, that is the antithesis of the truth. Teachers are forced to administer these tests to us, and therefore their teaching methods must change. Study after study has found that the method teachers use to maximize testing success holds virtually no informational gain compared to students who were taught without the worry. But, if the teachers stray from the path, test scores drop. But why does it matter if they do? To put it simply, many teacher’s jobs and salaries depend on these results. In Florida, this equation is used to determine a teacher’s potential scores and thus their paychecks:

$$Y_{ti} = {X_iβ + y_{t-1}γ_1 + y_{t-2}γ_2} + Z_{1i}θ_1 + e_{ti}$$

The most ironic aspect of the equation is that it is almost identical to the equation used to “model genetic and reproductive trends of livestock,” according to Amrein-Beardsley, 2014. Reproductive trends of livestock. Is that all schools are to the people up top? Livestock farms? And make no mistake, the teachers are certainly not the ranchers if a school was a farm. They’d be livestock too, because they are in here with us. Our scores ride on their instruction, and their paycheck rides on our test scores. An endless cycle of dependency driving the harvesters of the money-tree orchards for the men up top.

In the end, standardized testing, despite its massive flaws, has become a part of the status quo in modern days. Its existence has simply come down to profiteering. Many people assume that schools are a thought out, complex structure that they need not interfere with. But that is simply not true. Schools have become not a product of research, but a product of tradition. And some traditions simply need to change. Idealistically, we could have an education system that is based on teacher observation, a system where everyone learns at their own pace, and where higher education is readily available to all. However, we all know that this is guaranteed to never happen anytime before the end of the decade, and unlikely to happen within the next few scores.

Want to publish an editorial? Email Michael Tang: mtang000@stu.waukesha.k12.wi.us