Why We Need Alternatives to Standardized Testing When was the last time the United States placed first in global mathematical performance? In the latest score reports, the U. S. didn’t even place in the top 30 countries. Over the last few decades, students in the United States’ public education system have been scoring progressively less in areas such as mathematics and science. As one could imagine, this is a very alarming trend that could be detrimental to the advancement of our country if not addressed properly.
Without an emphasis on mathematics, the United States will have a massive decline in progression as it loses more and more prospective occupations such as engineers, physicists, etc. These subjects have become so standardized, that the only way to efficiently correct this problem is to reform the public educational system by deviating away from things such as standardized testing and standards based learning. By reforming the public educational system and adopting a healthy alternative to standardized testing, the U. S should begin to rise in the rankings once again. The opinion of mathematics amongst students has been rapidly deteriorating.
Ask any student what they think of their math class and they will most likely tell you that they hate it. At this point one has to wonder, what has created such a resentment towards one of the most important subjects taught in school? The answer lies within the curriculum used to teach mathematics at most public institutions within the United States. Patrick Welsh believes, “that is because of the high failure rate not only in math courses, but also on the state’s standard of learning exams in math. ” The general consensus on standardized testing and standards based learning recently has not been very positive.
The growing amount of research on the negative effects of these has caused concerned parents and teachers alike to look for different alternatives to bring into the classroom. The only issue now is to figure out which alternative is best for students and how to go about implementing it into the public educational system since standardization has been around for such a long time. Standardized testing has been around since the 1800s, but it wouldn’t become common practice until around the 1930s when James B. Conant developed a test for admissions which is now known today as the SAT (Fletcher).
The test was designed to help make college admissions an easier process and choose candidates that demonstrated a knowledge of certain criteria. It wasn’t until the year 2001 with the creation of the No Child Left Behind Act that standardized testing would become so apparent in our current educational system (Holmes 3). While some would like to completely abolish every form of standardized testing, many others would still agree that it is beneficial in moderation. Only with the creation of NCLB would people begin to realize the negative effects of a standards based learning system.
Since NCLB especially, standardized testing has acted as a sort of system that divides groups of students based on their intelligence. This would have the potential to be a good assessment only if it wasn’t used to discourage students of their own academic abilities. The standardization of subjects such as mathematics has had a negative effect on a student’s ability to learn the subject properly. As Alfie Kohn states in his writing Standardized Testing and Its Victims, “standardized tests tend to measure the temporary acquisition of facts and skills.
With more importance placed on grades and scores rather than an actual understanding of the subject, students have been learning only in a way to receive the required score. While passing scores look good on paper, it leaves students in a bind once they forget what they just “learned. ” This leads to lower retention rates in these key subjects that will do students more harm than good later on. If a student isn’t retaining what they’re learning as they progress through more advanced courses, they’ll inevitably do poorly in courses later down the road as mathematics requires a cumulative understanding in order to do well.
There have been several alternatives to standardized testing proposed, but which one has the best chance of actually working? In order to make a reformation this large in scale, we need to be confident that the solution will be effective. One of the more promising alternatives is just the notion of a more personalized approach between teachers and their students. The only downside to this is the increased difficulty caused by large class sizes. Despite the large class sizes, only teachers know best what their students’ personal needs and learning styles are.
If they were allowed to create their own teaching methods and assessments, then there is a higher potential for student success in areas such mathematics. Another thing that could possibly help in this particular scenario is hiring in-class tutors that would take some of the stress off of teachers while allowing students to get more one on one time when learning. When students feel like their personal learning needs are being met as opposed to following a standardized curriculum, then their attitude towards the subject should change to that of a more positive one.
If a student enjoys what they’re learning instead of resenting it, then their performance will increase as well. Another alternative that has the capability of working is the use of stealth assessments. Stealth assessments work exactly how they sound, they analyze and assess a student’s abilities in a particular subject without the student actually knowing that they’re being “tested. ” As Anya Kamenetz writes in her article What Schools Could Use Instead of Standardized Tests, stealth assessments present “the opportunity to eliminate the time, cost and anxiety” of normal standardized testing.
It is a truly innovative approach as it would assess a student’s actual understanding of a subject. Just like in any other study or experiment, the conductor can only receive unbiased results with no lurking variables if they test the subjects in the right conditions. The number of variables that could skew a student’s score in a classic testing environment are astronomical, but if a student is working on math problems without suspecting that they’re actually being tested, then an examiner can truly understand how much information a particular student has retained in the subject.
Not only does the use of stealth assessments have the capability of benefitting students, but they can benefit teachers as well by breaking down how students naturally learn and perform in specific subcategories of a certain subject. Several computer programs have already been developed to analyze different learning styles and patterns, now the next step would be implementing them into the classroom. If the United States doesn’t bring in some kind of reform to its public education system, then who knows what the consequences will be.
As a collective whole, students in the U. S. re already doing poorly academically in subjects such as math, but with identifying the problems associated with standardized testing, it is possible to reverse this trend and become an intellectually prosperous nation once again. By implementing alternatives to standardized testing and giving students the ability to enjoy learning, the United States could see a future boom in innovation and different advancements. As Kennedy said in his famous ‘Moon Shot’ speech, “for while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. “