Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Ruins of Standardized Testing

On Seatle's MAP Boycott

Standardized tests have been a debated issue for the past few years, regarding their effectiveness and until which point they actually evaluate the true nature of the students with all the potential they have to offer. In January 2013, teachers from Seattle’s Garfield High School refused to apply the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test on their students. The boycott came after the district decided to make the scores the students obtain part of the teacher’s evaluation this year. This meant that all those students who do not take the test seriously and just guess through all the questions would be hurting their school’s and their teacher’s image upon the district- the test has no effect whatsoever on their grades of on their image.

 Schools all over the country have shown support to Garfield High School by sending them gifts, monetary support or simply congratulations. Others have been considering to also strike for this cause, as was the case of teachers in Chicago and in Washington State. The movement appears to be gradually gaining support from students, parents, educators and administrators around the country- they have even been praised by the American Education Association and the American Federation of teacher: [We] proudly support their efforts in saying ‘no’ to giving their students a flawed test that takes away from learning and is not aligned with the curriculum.

 Indeed, this test will eventually fall out of use. Not only does it not test all areas of student knowledge, but it also tests them on content that does not match their curriculum. It adds nothing to student’s knowledge and is of no interest to students. With the experience I have had with MAP testing myself for the past few years, I can affirm that, after a while, the test just becomes dull. If we, students, know how to solve the problem or analyze the poem, chances are we will do our best to get the right answer. Yet, if we have no idea on what it is talking about, we rather skip it than actually try- after all, our scores will not impact us. Before reading this article, I had no idea my scores actually affected my teachers, I believed they were only used to access student improvement over the years. Perhaps, many people do not know about the end function of this test either. Not that I do not apply myself to the test, because I do, but if I knew that my performance was affecting the image of my school, I would have tried harder to get the challenging questions correct.

Standardized testing is a concept that will eventually descend into oblivion. Student creativity, independence and uniqueness are characteristics being emphasized every time more by society and schools, skills that are not tested by these sorts of tests. Each person learns through a different manner and has different academic strengths, strengths that are not properly evaluated of valued by any of these tests. The future lies in essay writing and personalized tests, designed to assess the different perspectives students have to add to a college or an institution rather than their ability to memorize dates and events. Who knows if by the time our younger relatives get to high school is we will still be using these types of meaningless tests?

 I congratulate Garfield High School teachers on their courage to stand up and fight for what they believe, to challenge the paradigms of the system. Perhaps, if other institutions had the same audacity to do what Garfield’s teachers did, the American education system would be in a much better condition.

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