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Standardized Tests: An Opportunity Wasted

June 21, 2011

“The US and Britain are suffering dire teacher shortages and increasingly students are being taught the relevant ”tests” by paraprofessionals employed by private companies. It would be tragic to emulate these countries.”

Joanne Orlando opined the above statement in this recent article she wrote for the National Times in Australia. I couldn’t agree more. Why do we put so much emphasis on standardized tests as the primary means of gauging a student’s intellectual capacity and a teacher’s instructional prowess? It’s silly. No question outside the academic realm can be answered on a Scantron, so why do we use them to prepare our youth for success as adults?

Plus, standardized tests are anachronistic. They were useful back when one’s ability to perform a job could actually be judged by such a test. But times have changed. Our new intellectual economy values critical reasoning and creativity more than sheer technical knowledge. After all, we have computers to do our dirty work now.

If we want future generations to flourish, we must change the way we grade our education system. In her article, Joanne states “a primary criticism of such tests in the US is that they cause the states that administer the tests to lower achievement goals – so that standards look like they are rising – and motivate teachers to ”teach to the test”.

Think about our test-obsessed system, and then consider there was a recent Australian study called “Teachers for a Fair Go Project,” in which participating instructors “harnessed and celebrated the talents of individual students. They set up classroom environments that fostered creativity, problem solving and the development of potential, with lessons that related to the students’ interests in the world. They dramatically lifted attendance rates where this was a problem.”

Kids hate school when they know it ends with a test they don’t want to take. But deep down everyone loves to learn. So why don’t we foster an environment that encourages kids to explore their cravings for knowledge and actually enjoy class.

Give a bright mind the opportunity to achieve at something he or she actually cares about, and you’ll be amazed at how we all will benefit.

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