In October 2015, the Department of Education released a Testing Action Plan, calling on states to cut back on “unnecessary testing” that consumes “too much instructional time” and creates “undue stress for educators and students.” Parents worry about too much testing, teachers feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning both for them and for the students.
As many educators note, the existence of standardized tests pushes teachers into using class time for test preparation. Testing interferes with real learning, dictating what teachers teach and too much focus on reaching high scores. The entire educational system becomes diverted to raising test scores rather than gaining understanding or knowledge.
The Hoop Becomes the Goal
Because standardized test scores are so incredibly neat and tidy, they get used for all sorts of purposes they shouldn’t such as assessment becoming the curriculum and results in teaching to the test. Tests have taken on a broader significance used to compare individual schools and school districts, and to determine a school’s independent “report card” as well as which have subpar academic performance.
Standardized tests give students a nice, simple, completely useless prize to work towards. The hoop becomes the goal.
Follow the Money
The importance placed on standardized tests has turned the testing business into a money making machine. The test preparation industry is enormous, such as the Kaplan Company taking in more than two billion dollars a year. The number of standardized tests has multiplied in many of America’s school systems. No Child Left Behind’s ultimatum of “100% proficiency by 2014 or reduced funding” took standardized test-anxiety to a new level and profits for testing companies to new heights. And human nature had led too many schools to starve their curriculum of content by “teaching to the test.”
Diagnostic Tool or Imparting Wisdom and Knowledge
Traditionally, education is the cultivation and nourishment of a human soul on truth, goodness and beauty by means of the liberal arts, such that students realize their potential and acquire wisdom, virtue and eloquence. Without these, all that remains is efficient training exercises where teachers become technicians and students disengage. Standardized testing has its purpose as a diagnostic tool, not the primary vehicle that drives how education functions or how students are to be taught.
See Life-Long Learning in Action
Teaching to standardized tests in subject areas is contradictory to the classical education model. At Liberty Classical Academy, our goal is to develop student abilities that will make life-long learning a reality.
LCA Headmaster Discusses Testing and Classical Education
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