Standardized Stress

by Alyssa Cohen

Standardized testing is a method of objectively assessing students and school systems implemented in nearly every public school district in the United States. The importance of these tests is stressed to students from the time they are enrolled in elementary school, and the concern of proficient student performances on these exams is constantly on the back of every teacher’s mind. Students of all grade levels spend valuable learning time taking practice assessments and mastering standardized test taking strategies. While such examinations claim to keep learning on track and ensure equal instruction of all students, they are inaccurate scales of material comprehension and hinder a student’s overall learning potential.

Contrary to popular belief, standardized tests measure a student’s test taking ability on one particular day instead of their overall understanding of curriculum. Such exams promise to represent a student’s academic standing, disregarding the variables that exist within the testing process. Some students might be having a bad day or experiencing difficulties at home at the time of the exam, while others will show up focused and well-rested. Students who are not dealing with personal hardships will be able to maintain a higher level of concentration while taking the test.

Also, students unable to cope with test-related anxiety will receive scores drastically lower than those who have adapted effective stress reduction techniques.

“I’ve had very strong students in my classes complain of scoring poorly on standardized tests completely due to anxiety,” explained North Attleboro High School anatomy teacher Dr. Cavedon. “There is no way that these exams are an accurate representation of a student’s knowledge.”

Additionally, many teachers are using valuable class time to prepare their students for standardized tests. While these exams assure the same material is taught in every school, they are also narrowing the curriculum. In turn, important course content that should be discussed in detail, is simply being breezed over by instructors.

North Attleboro High School English Teacher Mrs. Violette compared the burdensome task of standardized exam preparation to a “pesky fly at a barbeque.”

“I almost feel guilty spending class time preparing my students for standardized tests,” Violette admitted. “I know there is much more beneficial information I could be using this time to teach.”

Overall, teachers no longer have sufficient time to cover standard course material, let alone to communicate the real life applications of their teachings. With such a strong emphasis on test preparation, most students never get the opportunity to go on a field trip or explore potential job opportunities throughout their entire high school career. To that end, students across the country are graduating high school proficient in using the process of elimination to correctly answer a multiple choice question, but lacking the ability to write a check or create a resume.

“If I was plucked out of the high school setting and put into the real world tomorrow, I wouldn’t last a week,” explained junior Michael DiRenzo. “I have yet to learn anything in my high school experience applicable to life after I graduate.”

In essence, standardized testing is detrimental to the education system of America as it is an unreliable method of measuring the performance level of a student. These tests engender a grade-conscious mindset in children, evoke unnecessary stress in educators, and discourage creativity in the classroom all together. Schools should focus more upon instilling good work ethic, positive moral values, and common sense within their students, rather than ranking them based upon test scores.

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