Standardised testing is widespread in the USA.
The results are used for all manner of things.
In some districts, students are forbidden to graduate school if their test scores are not high enough.
In some schools, teachers are sacked if their students’ scores are deemed too low for that year.
Why? It is leading to a “drill and kill” style of schooling where all that matters is the test.
Who wins from this?
The testing companies. They make millions. Billions.
Pearson has a five-year, US $468 million contract to create Texas maths tests alone.
Tests that have been found to have serious errors.
And the losers?
Meanwhile, as testing companies rack up the profits, who loses?
– Students who get a narrow curriculum that does not value an enquiring mind.
– Teachers who are sacked on very dubious grounds because of these dodgy tests results.
– The 99%, as our education system is systematically pillaged.
A bomb about to explode
This is how one 14 year old A grade student felt when sitting one of these tests:
~ A 14 Year Old Speaks Out About Testing ~
“Today I have experienced one of the most confidence breaking and mind troubling obstacles in my entire life; the Algebra 1 Keystone exam for the State of Pennsylvania. When I sat down to take this standardized test, I did not know what I was getting myself into. My math teacher had been preparing us for this test, but even with all that drill and practice, my mind could not take it all in.
The first 14 questions took me over 10 minutes each when I was trying to solve the unfamiliar equations, long word problems, and words I didn’t even know how to pronounce. I was telling myself that I was going to be fine until all of the stress overwhelmed my body. I was frustrated. “I should know this,” I thought. I wasn’t even half way done when they announced that there were only 10 minutes remaining. I only completed my first set of grueling questions, and still had another set of them and 2 short answer sections containing at least 6 more questions each. I wouldn’t get help from a,b,c or d with these.
At that moment, my mind broke down. I was telling myself that I was stupid, and that these kinds of tests make me feel like I don’t know anything. After hours of work, I still had so much more. It is extremely difficult to continue concentrating at the same intense level as you did when you first started. I was sick and tired of looking at those same boring Algebra problems.
I am an A average student all around, and score advanced on PSSA’s. But I couldn’t even read the next problem without all of those discouraging thoughts spiraling in my mind. I tried telling myself to pull through, but I found myself not caring anymore, and just wanting to circle some letter. I did that for two or three questions and stopped.
I dropped my pencil on my desk, tried taking some deep breaths, and thought of ripping my booklet into shreds. I poked holes in my booklet with my pencil, and started squeezing my hands tightly as if I was going to explode. I was that angry, outraged, fuming.
I felt so incredibly frustrated that these stupid test companies don’t care what they are doing to the students of our country. All they want is the money, and the worst part is, nothing is being done to stop them. Why don’t the politicians making my generation the most over tested in history try the tests for themselves? I bet most of them would fail or do poorly. I mean, if smart, educated people don’t do well on these tests, than what do they show?
These Keystone tests are breaking kids down, making us feel dumb and not want to learn, instead of making us want to enjoy the wonders and greatness of education. I know that when most people in my grade hear the words, standardized testing, no one is jumping up and down with excitement.
I am an 8th grade student in the Lower Merion School District: a district known for their excellent education. When kids here are complaining about how difficult it is for us to take these tests, who knows what kids in struggling school districts are experiencing. Why should these tests be a graduation requirement for high school?
After my big meltdown from the frustration of not knowing how in the world to do these problems, I didn’t continue my test. I told the guidance counselor I couldn’t take it any more, and how it made me feel horrible inside. Although I kept calm on the outside, on the inside I was bomb about to explode. I was holding back my tears.
I bet many other kids felt this same way, even if it wasn’t as strongly as I felt. I will tell you one thing, I am never taking one of those tests again. No test shall ever make me feel as low and deflated as I did today. I don’t care what alternative project I have to do in exchange for the Keystone test. Let me be exempted. No one should experience what I have experienced today. Standardized testing needs to be stopped.”
By Jordyn Schwartz
Jordyn’s letter can be found here.
Testing in Aotearoa
We are not at this stage yet in Aotearoa, thank goodness. But it’s closer than you think. In the USA it’s entrenched and the same is true of Australia… And in NZ the upcoming PaCT system – a computerised National Standards assessment tool – will bring us one step closer to this horror here.
This is why a strong coalition of principal and teacher leaders rejected the Government’s decision to make PaCT mandatory from 2015. They want to keep teaching and learning authentic.
But the Ministry is not above bullying and threatening schools to gain compliance.
Which means any resistance must come also from parents and students: Prepare to fight to protect our schools from this madness.