Honors English 12
December 19, 2011
The Tests That Can Determine an Entire Future
Albert Einstein once said, "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." How, though, may teachers follow these wise words, when they must constantly worry about educating their students so they can pass just one of the many standardized tests thrust upon them? John Dewey, an American philosopher, also said, "The real process of education should be the process of learning to think through the application of real problems." How, though, can students possibly learn critical thinking if they are forced to learn through relentless memorization and worksheets in order for them to pass one test upon which their futures so highly depend? This phenomenon of accountability testing and holding teachers accountable for scores has swept across the country, creating a negative approach to educating the youth of America. Due to the lack of validity of these tests and the negative effects on teachers and students, standardized testing is ruining the public education system.
With accountability for standardized testing being a new trend in America, today, many do not realize how long ago they were actually used and why they are being used now. Dan Fletcher wrote in a Time magazine article that China was the first country to ever develop standardized tests, which were used to test government officials (4). This new idea began to move westward, but writing essays was still the favored method of testing. However, in 1905, America began to conform to the new trend, and Alfred Binet developed the IQ test, which "emerged as an easy way to test large numbers of students quickly"(Fletcher 5). Today, standardized tests have become the sole measure of not only student success, but also the success of the school and teachers. A few years ago, in 2001, George W. Bush passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which "[expanded] state-mandated standardized testing as means of assessing school performance" ("How Standardized Testing"). The passing of this law brought about an enormous wave of change. Schools now "use standardized testing to determine if children are ready for school...[to] diagnose for learning disability, retardation and other handicaps; and to decide whether to promote, retain in grade, or graduate many students" ("How Standardized Testing"). Obviously, there have been many changes made to the idea of standardized testing. Society has gone from using them to test government officials to now using the tests as a means of judging a student's knowledge. Yet, are they actually helping America?
Research, from the present and the past, has shown that education in America has seen no improvement since the spread of standardized testing. In 1999, according to the National Research Center, "In comparison with students from 143 other countries, American students finished in the lowest quarter in geometry and ranked second from the bottom in algebra" (Sykes). Ten years later, America is still experiencing low stats, even with the passing of the NCLB Act. There are many statistics showing the decline of the United States in the global rankings: "U.S. students slipped from 18th in the world in math in 2000 to 31st place in 2009, with a similar decline in science and no change in reading" ("Is the Use of"). It is ironic that this decline became noticeable not long after Bush's NCLB Act was passed, with the intended purpose of bettering the education of America's students.
One reason for this digression is the fact that the tests favor not only white Americans, but also the wealthy. There have been many critics who have said that standardized tests are racist because of the difference in performance: "Evidence of such differences in test scores raise the issue that perhaps these tests are discriminating. Tests do not recognize that students of different cultures...