You Can’t Make Me!
If you have a child in K-12, it’s safe to say you know that standardized testing isn’t just for seniors anymore. Starting with Stanford Achievement Tests in kindergarten and finishing with college admissions tests, students in the public education system will have taken more than 100 standardized tests, according to an article on KSL.com. Most or many students will spend at least 40 hours each year taking standardized tests—and that concerns many parents. Some believe that legislators at the state and federal levels and educators at the state, district, and local levels have become obsessed with tests.
The first U.S. standardized test was issued in the early 1900s with the advent of “common schools,” but since the 60s, the number of tests has proliferated. In some states, elementary students are choosing to opt out of standardized tests. In New York State, up to 14% of students from grades 3-8 were estimated to skip the tests in 2015, according to CNN. In the State of Utah, about 1% of students have requested to opt out.
The reasons tests have been and continue to be administered have not changed despite many students opting out of tests. The primary reason for giving tests is to determine whether students have learned the material being taught. In other words, you need to assess the education that students have received if you want to improve the educational system. When students opt out of standardized testing, it becomes difficult for teachers to track students’ academic performance. Another concern is that the test score of the class may be inaccurate (i.e., it might go up or down) when students opt out. This can create an awkward battle between parents and teachers over administering tests to students.
During the past year, I personally observed another phenomenon inspired by the opt-out movement. Several educators, parents, and students decided that sabotage might succeed where opting out failed. In other words, some dissidents decided to disclose and disseminate live test questions with the hope that the standardized test would be rendered useless. There is a difference between asserting personal rights and privileges and infringing upon the rights and privileges of others, because not every parent wants his or her student to opt out of testing. Some parents want to know just how well his or her child is doing in school.
It will be interesting to see where this leads in the near future. There is a need to ensure that students are being taught, that education dollars are being spent wisely, and that students are prepared for the future. Whether standardized testing is getting excessive or not is a matter of debate, but one thing is for sure: it’s not going anywhere any time soon.