The word "testing" gives many people an uneasy feeling. It evokes nervousness and stress. It forces our minds to think in ways that seek to determine what someone else wants us to know and in what manner we must give it. The thought of testing or thoughts during testing make any creative ideas vanish...there is no room for them. The mind must function in a predetermined manner for success. Information memorized must be rehearsed...allowing no other ideas. The mind is fatigued by the many facts or numbers crammed into it.
Many tests are timed, so those people who are stressed by this
component, tremble at the signal of time starting and ending. At the
end of the test, the mind may actually try to "forget" the mass of
information because the process of testing has fatigued it mentally and
physically. Facts not relevant for the current moments of life may be
shoved into a miscellaneous file in the brain and may never be
Tests point out what learners get wrong and then penalize them for
those wrong answers. Tests rarely allow for later clarification of
misunderstandings or for the re-teaching of concepts. Teaching continues
on its predetermined path, leaving some students farther and farther
Now move from normal testing to an even greater level of stress for
the mind...standardized testing. Standardized tests demand that
everyone in a certain grade level learn the same skills, within the same
time, in the same way...because they will be required to give the very
same answers in order to do well. Everyone must fit into the same box,
the same cookie cutter, be the same bolt or screw on the assembly line
of education. Bits of isolated, disconnected information must be
drilled and drilled, day after day, in hopes of covering possible skills
and standards that will be tested. Everyone must become a master of
bubbling in answers to multiple choice questions. There is little
consideration for growth and development variations...little
consideration for cultural differences. Teachers must teach for this
test. Instructional time is consumed by preparing for the test.
During the week of standardized testing, everyone will be encouraged
to get plenty of sleep at home. Administrators may come in and have pep
rallies to keep students alert. Teachers may offer ice-cream sundaes
in the afternoons. All types of bribery will be used to coerce students
to do well. Students will be told to just think of the test...put
everything else out of their minds.
The young girl who comes to school distressed because her dog was
killed that morning by a car will be told to "get focused" on the test.
The boy whose father left their home after a divorce will try to push
his hurt feelings aside, but finds he cannot concentrate hour after hour
and soon just guesses. A boy who is very bright in the field of
mathematics is confused by the way the questions are stated. He wants
to ask for clarification, but can't. He gets highly frustrated and
becomes unable to continue for a while...yet the time is ticking away. A
student gets very confused trying to comprehend one story after the
other...one about a railroad, one about a chemical reaction, one about a
bread factory, one about a gender differences. They go on and on...one
random topic after the other.
At kindergarten level, the young student feels ready to answer
questions about animals. He loves animals and thinks he will know the
answers. His class has studied forest animals, farm animals, and pets.
The class has a goldfish and hamster. He knows a lot about those
animals. As the teacher reads the standardized test questions, his
heart sinks. Surprisingly, all three questions are about sea
otters...How do sea otters sleep? What do sea otters eat? How do sea
otters take care of their young? He starts to cry.
A third grader in a community of intense violence and crime reads this standardized test question:
A boy wakes up and hears popping sounds downstairs. The popping sounds probably are:
(a)traffic outside (b)bacon frying (c) an alarm clock.
The correct answer is "bacon frying," but because this child has
never awakened to bacon frying, he assumes the popping sounds are
gunfire. He looks for an answer with the word "gun," but does not see
it. He marks "traffic outside" and of course that is incorrect.
A student tries to concentrate on the math part of the test. Her
mind becomes weary and confused by trying to think about so many topics
at one time. Questions are about: adding fractions, multiplying
fractions, dividing fractions, graphs, volume, perimeter, angles, mode,
median, mean, probability, equivalents, decimals, rates, ratios...She
can't keep it all straight in her mind.
The educational and political establishments would have you to
believe that scores will tell us who is smart and who is not...which
teachers are proficient and which are not...the schools that are
excellent and the ones that are not...that quantitative data...numbers
and more numbers will inform us of success.
Standardized testing should not have the overwhelming influence on
education that it does. A good teacher knows when her/his students are
doing well. Good teachers can create a curriculum and assessments that
meet the needs of their students. Good teachers know effective
strategies that give time for growth and development, allow for
emotional distresses, and provide a secure environment for teaching and
learning...an environment that opens the mind...not closes it.
(this article originally appeared on The Huffington Post and can be viewed by clicking here.)