Standardized testing is an issue that most of us Rams are familiar with. For some of us, the memory of hours of bubbling in answers in uncomfortable silence is more recent than others. Many students dreaded testing days, while others, like me, enjoyed or didn’t mind them. In my experience, the kids who did the best in classes had an easier time with the standardized tests, while the kids who struggled academically either continued to toil or skipped testing days altogether.
Overall, I found that my peers and my success on standardized tests was corollary to our success in the classroom, and herein lies the issue with standardized testing: mandated tests take hours of instructional time and resources from educators, and offer a disproportionate amount of useful evaluative information in return.
This isn’t to say that standardized tests are worthless; states need a way of monitoring the effectiveness of public education. However, the sheer volume of tests that today’s students are subject to is a waste of time and resources. For example, the state of Colorado recently introduced a new online test, the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS, to be taken by high school seniors. This is in addition to state tests students must complete in grades two through 11.
Overall, students in Fort Collins’ Poudre School District are subject to one or more standardized test, per year, on average. This is an absurd amount of testing to expose students to, when studies show that that time could be better spent on more classroom instruction. When reports indicate that only 17 percent of students scored strong on social studies “college preparedness” assessments, it sends a clear message that the students’ time would better spent reviewing world history than Scantron sheets.
Furthermore, utilizing standardized testing to gauge the “preparedness” of students for higher education is particularly ineffective, as they test for content rather than skills. While a solid foundation in math, science and literacy is certainly important, standardized tests ignore the skills that are required to succeed in higher education. Studying methods, synthesis of information and knowing how to seek out and find resources are far more essential to collegiate academics. Professors aren’t going to care if incoming freshmen don’t remember the details of the Battle of Hastings, but they are going to care that students can write a five page report on it from 50 pages of material. The research and study skills that students develop in high school can make or break their college experience; the actual content they gleaned in the process takes a back seat in importance.
Standardized testing uses time and resources that are better spent on classroom instruction for struggling students. While it is important for educators to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching, current levels of testing on content are excessive and ignore the set of skills that is most crucial to students’ continued academic success. Colorado lawmakers should ease mandated testing to allocate more time to where students are served best: the classroom.
Collegian Senior Columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @seanskenn.