There are countless tools designed to improve the education system: common core standards, standardized tests, teacher evaluations, etc, etc, etc... But are these strategies effective? Are they really preparing students to be successful, innovative, and productive members of society?
Recently, Rick Roach, a member of Florida’s Orange County Board of Education, decided to take the standardized test required of all 10th grade students in his state, here are some excerpts from his experience:
‘[The chairman] said that by 2013 or 2014, he wanted 50 percent of the 10th graders reading at grade level....I’m thinking, ‘That’s horrible.’ Right now it’s 39 percent of our kids reading at grade level in 10th grade. I have to tell you that I’ve never believed that that many kids can’t read at that level. Never ever believed it. I have five kids of my own. None of them were superstars at school but they could read well, and these kids today can read too.
"So I was thinking, ‘What are they taking that tells them they can’t read? What is this test?"
He asked someone who works at the board to help him take the FCAT but state law only allows it to be taken by students, so it was arranged for him to take a version of it.
On the reading section, he scored 62 percent, a ‘D’ in Orange County. On the math, he said he knew none of the answers but guessed correctly on 10 of the 60.
“On the FCAT, they are reading material they didn’t choose. They are given four possible answers and three out of the four are pretty good. One is the best answer but kids don’t get points for only a pretty good answer. They get zero points, the same for the absolute wrong answer. And then they are given an arbitrary time limit. Those are a number of reasons that I think the test has to be suspect.
It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelors of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate.
I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities.
I have a wide circle of friends in various professions. Since taking the test, I’ve detailed its contents as best I can to many of them, particularly the math section, which does more than its share of shoving students in our system out of school and on to the street. Not a single one of them said that the math I described was necessary in their profession.
It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”
Aside from discovering the rants of Rick Roach, I have also run across several articles this past week about the common core standards being unrealistic and leaving little time for what younger students need the most: play, social skills, and the arts.
By increasing the number of standards teachers and students must master perhaps we are actually lowering the standard of education. Suffocating creative thought. Teaching every single child in our nation the same things, the same way of thinking, instead of teaching them to think differently and come up with new ways to solve problems.
Undoubtedly there is foundational knowledge that is important for students to know, but often that knowledge doesn’t compare to the value of creativity, innovation, and problem solving – skills that are difficult to measure by the only measure most education systems use: standardized testing.
As so well put by Annie Profitt (Goldie Hawn) in the 1987 movie, Overboard:
“My children are in need of medical assistance! And you can sit here and smugly lecture me on the importance of tests? Tests which exist to pigeonhole children's potential, a thing which cannot possibly be measured!”
More and more, people are realizing that standardized testing is not an effective measure of student achievement or potential. What do you think should be changed? How should students' be assessed?