The Injustice of Standardized Tests

Dylan Shapiro, Writer

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Recently, the middle school finished taking their PSSAs, and Keystones began today. It is this time of the year, then, that people are noticing the unfairness of these tests. The questions are written in such a convoluted way, that sometimes these tests seem more like a logic puzzle than a fair assessment. It makes no sense why a test would have questions on it that are so unclear that students fail not because of lack of knowledge in the subject, but because they couldn’t understand the questions.

Standardized tests do not accurately show data, as demonstrated by a very simple scientific idea. For an experiment to be accurate and controlled, all variables, except the one you are testing for, must remain the same. Since the tests vary annually, they can’t accurately show growth, since students are taking different assessments each year. It appears that the state that approved this test didn’t pass fifth grade science.

These test are also unreasonably long. Students spend a minimum of five days testing for the PSSAs, and at least seven for the Keystones combined throughout their academic careers. That is outrageous and expensive, because it costs the district money to buy these tests to give to students. Again, it makes no sense why the district would force a kid to take a test they don’t want to take, for an unnecessarily long time, which costs the district more money in testing resources and administration. There is not a single positive in this situation, but it’s how the system works.

These test scores are also used to discredit teachers, simply because of something that is out of their control. If a math teacher tries to teach a kid math, and the kid adamantly refuses to learn any math, and fails their test, how is that the teacher’s fault? Now, if the district just gave the teachers a report on scores, this would be a relatively harmless, but sadly ineffective, PPS process. It is a far more serious problem, because these scores are a factor in teacher pay. Under the current system, students need a proficient to pass. Therefore, if a teacher brought a student up from a below basic to a basic, the student would still fail, and it would reflect poorly on the teacher. But if a different teacher has a student at the start of the year who began at a proficient, and ends on a proficient, that teacher would be rewarded. Since the test has only one benchmark, it doesn’t even show how much the student learned through the year. It makes the most sense to evaluate teachers based on how much a student learned, not how much they knew based off of an arbitrary standard.

I would recommend that three things happen. First, testing should be reduced to a day per subject. Second, the tests should only take place for an hour each day, not the entire morning. Third, tests should happen twice per school year, so they show growth, and lastly, eliminate the component of testing that affects teacher pay at all. These tests are a necessary evil, but they should be used to show students and teachers how much they have grown, not that they are permanently below average.

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