What do you think about Standardized Tests?

Kate Maeder's picture

I came across this article today, and I think it raises an interesting question.

http://sfgate.greatschools.org/students/academic-skills/considering-statewide-tests.gs?content=47

Do you think that teachers are "dumbing down" the curriculum for the tests, or do these standardized tests really keep schools accountable? 

Excerpt: "The number one problem, many critics say, is that the tests themselves (especially the national, norm-referenced tests) are "dumbing down" the curriculum. Growing numbers of students, teachers and parents express concern that the increased emphasis on testing is encouraging a curriculum focused on rote learning and producing students who can respond to simple test questions but cannot think critically or apply their learning to new circumstances."

We can only really expect to succeed if we raise the bar and teach our kids to be the best they can be. I see both sides of the argument... but what do you think?

NKlein82's picture

Tests are not the problem

Tests are not the problem.  The state is considering modifying curricula for schools to match the national standard, which is much lower than California's curriculum.  We should let this happen.  Our schools are already in trouble, we should not lower our standards.  We need more investment in our schools and more experience in our teachers.

Kate Maeder's picture

That's really an interesting

That's really an interesting article.

"Over the past decade and a half, California's Latino student population has almost doubled from 30 percent to over 50 percent, many of them facing special learning challenges. Yet the number of students taking algebra by eighth grade has jumped from 16 percent to 60 percent, while the success rate has jumped from 39 percent to 48 percent since 2002. In 2002, only a third of high school students took Algebra 2 by grade 11; now more than half take it, and with increasing success rates."

Yet, I'm not sure why the new curriculum is "obese" and "unteachable." CA shouldn't be forced sub-par standards, you're right. San Francisco should work to be the model of education reform. There are so many bright people out there with the creative energy to make our city and our kids the best they can be. It's a real investment in our city, our state and our nation's future!

edwardyoung720's picture

Mixed results

I don't think that raising the bar for tests is necessarily a bad thing but it should be done so carefully. High school teachers for example get forced to skim through certain lessons in order to keep up with the curriculum so that come standardized testing time, the students will be able to pass the test. In a way its a good thing because the student gets to know what they are "supposed" to know but i don't think it allows the teachers enough freedom to develop students interests; which may mean letting the students take their time to figure out and pursue their interests.

Seward's picture

I do think that standardized

I do think that standardized tests are not the perfect way to measure student learning. I'm a college student right now and I remember always scoring extremely high on the tests in elementary and middle school, leading me to believe that I was learning a lot more than my peers. Once I got to high school, I continued to score really high, but I realized that my high standardized test scores did not truly reflect how much I learned in school. Rather, it was more of a reflection of what a great multiple choice test taker I was. Similarly, I was able to get pretty high test scores on my SATs, but I really don't think I was "smarter" than people who scored lower than me; I was simply a superior test taker.

Having said all of that, there still needs to be a way to keep schools accountable. Therefore, I do agree with the standard-based tests, which tests students on the curriculum, as opposed to the norm referenced tests, which basically compare students with other students across the country who have totally different curriculum standards.

catherinejanem's picture

Standardized tests-too little, too late

My mom works at a middle school where 60% of the children are ESL.  Of those children, many enter the 6th grade with very little knowledge of the English language.  By the time these kids take a standardized test, it's too late.  Forcing children to achieve standardized test scores if they have not been given the tools to do son in their younger grade school years sets them up for failure.  I liken it to giving a teenager a driving manual, like the California DMV handbook for the written exam, then asking them to pass the driving test without having driven a car.  They may have read the material, but don't know how to apply it, or what to do with it.  How can we ensure that children are set up from a young age for success?

Wendi's picture

English literacy is a huge problem

I think we need to face the reality that a huge burden on our schools are the number of non-english speaking students.  There are a large number of students that enter school with almost no knowledge of the English language.  There attendance in a classroom of native English speakers automatically sets the bar lower for achievement.  The reason being is time must now be taken to explain the lesson in a way they can understand thus slowing down the progression of the class for the native English speakers.

One of the solutions may be Head-Start type programs for non native English speakers and at the same time enforcing stronger immigration laws.

cpc's picture

Standardized tests are necessary but not helping

As the mother of one GATE child and one special ed child, I've seen both ends of the spectrum.  My GATE child has been ignored for all six years of his elementary school education while the teachers and assistants focus on the special needs children.  His second grade teacher brought in a stack of books and let him read all day while she taught the rest of her class.  My special ed child, on the other hand, gets pulled out of class every day for both group and one on one education and therapy with the school psychologist, speech therapist and special ed teachers.  

I have been irritated over the years by teachers' constant whining about how they have to "teach to the test" in lieu of actual teaching.  I feel that test taking skills and the subjects that the tests are meant to measure, are important for all children to learn in order to succeed.  I know that teachers begin administering practice versions of the STAR test several weeks or months in advance of the actual tests.  I was shocked, however, when my special ed child came home the day before his actual test date with a bunch of writing in pen on his arm.  When I asked him what it was, he said the special ed teacher had written the correct answers for him on his arm.  Obviously, the teachers open the tests in advance so that they could figure out the correct answers and provide them to the special ed children in order to improve test scores.  Despite a fairly high percentage of children identified as GATE and consistently well above average test scores, our school, like all other schools in the state, gets penalized if test scores don't improve every year.  This encourages inappropriate behavior on many levels and defeats the purpose of the testingI I think testing is at least a good start to figure out where our students base skills are and what we can do to improve our education system.  I think until parents start screaming and demanding improvements, our schools, districts and state educators will continue to provide the absolute minimum education to our children.  One parent's voice is just dismissed as crazy (I know from experience).  The voices of many, very noisy parents are much harder to ignore.

andreagray's picture

language and learning

Wrong! We need to not only get creative but take advantage of the opportunities that are right in front of our faces! Make lemonade... the majority of non-Native speakers are Spanish speaking. I have 3 multi-lingual children (French-Spanish_English) and I can tell you that multi-lingualism opens all kinds of neuropathways for better learning. Why not make the classrooms with a large # Native Spanish speakers into opt-in programs for Native English speaking children to immerse- it could be a 2-way immersion so both parties would benefit. Doesn't sound like the writer would send her kid....but there are so many parents who want their children to learn Spanish, (or Chinese, even). If you want to count yourself as an educator, you HAVE to be open-minded

Wendi's picture

RE: language & learning

I wouldn't make the assumption that I do not want my kid to learn another language.  We are a bilingual household.  Additionally I do not disagree that one being fluent in more than one language is an advantage.  However entering school and not being fluent in the language that is predominate in the country you are growing up in is a disadvantage.  Also the time and expenditure it would take to implement a program that you are talking about is not within our current educational budget.  We barely get through the basics of English math, and history.   I am open minded, but with a large dose of pragmatism.

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