MSUM ENGL 101 - STANDARDIZED TESTING, HELPFUL OR NOT?

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Stephen UmeheaNathan RundquistENGL 10102/11/14STANDARDIZED TESTING, HELPFUL OR NOT?Standardized testing has been used as a primary method to evaluate the competence of students and compare them to other students in a class against a scale. These tests are usually carried out in a room full of nervous students and condescending proctors breathing down the necks of these students. The students are then forced to put their knowledge on paper in order to prove that they learned what the teacher thought and are ready to move on to the next grade or class. This system of student evaluation is, however, flawed. I find it difficult to believe that a student that has spent months learning elements of a particular subject or course can accurately put down what he or she knows in the time frame of 60 minutes without deliberating on cheating or having several other factors come into play.Standardized test scores are subject to numerous factors including fear, anxiety, poverty, hunger or depression. The effect these factors have on the student being tested and consequently the test score itself cannot be over-estimated. Test anxiety is one of the major factors that affect students while the tests is going on. A 2011 survey by the NAMI surveyed 765 people who were either enrolled in colleges or had been within the last five years. 68 percent of these students were diagnosed to have the mental health condition of anxiety and depression and this was most caused by standardized testing andtherefore influenced their scores. Students may know the material they need to answers questions and solve problems correctly on the test but end up going blank when time comes to put forth their knowledge. I can personally attest to this. Examinations and tests make me nervous even when I’ve spent the entire week before it studying. During a test, I find it difficult to focus and this might make me end up doing worse on the test than I deserve. As Kohn Alfie so rightly put in his publication“Standardized Testing and Its Victims”, “non-instructional factors explain most of the variance among test scores when school districts are compared”. A student’s emotional wellbeing also plays a major rolein their score report card. A students whose parents are going through a divorce making him basically anemotional train-wreck has more than enough mental distractions to make them do badly on the standardized test. You would also agree that if you and I were to write the same test having the same knowledge but I was starving at the time of testing, you would most likely score higher than me. Obviously I performed worse than you but was it a good portrayal of my knowledge? To get a higher score, some students might decide to resorts to dubious methods to make the tests more ‘convenient’.It is common knowledge that cheating has become a big part of the system of education. With the internet at our beck and call, and gadgets running the town, cheating is easier and more tempting now than ever before. Now I’m not saying students don’t study anymore, but those that actually do are in the minority. Where I’m from, the laws against cheating and plagiarism aren’t as strong as they seem to be in America. This makes students see it as the more convenient route to a high score on a test. Not everyone is open to cheating and plagiarism; some students actually want to earn their scores honestly but unfortunately these hardworking students are forced to write the same standardized tests with students who cheat. Making the honest students have to write the same tests with the cheats is like giving a knight a loaded gun in a sword fight, it ultimately means that the cheaters gain an unfair advantage over the hardworking students and this defeats the entire purpose of standardized testing. The students who end up relying on cheating are also not to blame for their actions. Glen Linberry’s publication “Standardized Testing Lead to Standardized Cheating” poses the question “do tests not supplant educational goals for students and for schools?” If students achieve high test scores by cheating, do tests really test the right things?Educational Leadership, a book that focuses on the pros and cons of standardized testing writtenby Robert J. Marzano and Arthur L. Costa states that “standardized tests in their current form are primarily measures of factual information.” There are two types of knowledge: factual and procedural knowledge. Factual knowledge is knowledge of what something is while procedural knowledge is knowledge of how something became what it is Tests and examination almost always test factual knowledge, ignoring the more important procedural knowledge. If I asked the simple math problem 8 + 3 and you told me 11, you would be correct and this is what tests ask. Standardized tests, however, almost never ask how you arrive at your answers and this makes cheating an even more convenient route for lazy students. Testing only a fact and not a procedure limits students thinking and although they may perform well on the tests, this is not a good representation of what these students actually know neither is it a good way to learn to deal with problems they are bound to encounter later in life.Meador Derrick’s “Standardized testing” blog claims that standardized testing is important because it tests and compares students across different locations but what is the point of this when these students’ scores are constantly plagued by a variety of other factors? Comparing students across different locations would only be effective in the imaginary world where birds don’t fly and students don’t cheat. But until the real world meets those conditions, the notion that standardized testing is the most efficient way to evaluate students would remain only feasible in a fictional


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MSUM ENGL 101 - STANDARDIZED TESTING, HELPFUL OR NOT?

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