How standardized tests are ruining your child’s future and what you can do about it

It’s that time of year again – the time your child and their teacher has spent all year getting ready for…Standardized Testing.  According to a report by the AFT (American Federation of Teachers), many students spend over a month each school year either preparing for the test or taking it.  Below is an excerpt, but you can read the whole report here.

In the Eastern school district, students in grades 6-11 spent up to 50 hours per school year—or two full weeks—taking state-mandated tests, interim benchmarking tests and other district academic assessments. The district also devoted 110 hours or more—about one full month of the school year—to test prep – See more at: http://www.aft.org/news/aft-report-shows-high-cost-overtesting#sthash.DAAxmPfR.dpuf

It’s just not time wasted on this preparing for the test but also all the “congratulation” time wasted on the test.  You know what I mean – the parties, the outings, the Disney movies they watch for doing a good job.  In addition, if your child is in a district like the ones I know best, once the tests are done in a few weeks, NOTHING will be taught for the rest of the year.  I know of several 7th and 8th grade math classes who spend many weeks for the rest of the year watching Disney movies because nothing they do matters since the tests are already done.

Contrary to helping our children succeed in life, these tests are leaving our children behind because they cannot “think outside the box”, they don’t have a wide base of knowledge to pull from, they don’t know how to answer problems that require multiple steps, and, to make things even worse, they are so stressed out because they need to perform well. While there is a growing opt-out movement for these tests, I don’t believe the tests will go away anytime soon.  Pearson and other textbook manufacturers have too much at stake.  The only hope for your children is for you, as a parent, to stand up and ensure that your child is getting what they need even if the school isn’t.  Don’t be fooled that the schools actually care about how well your child succeeds – they don’t.  Your child’s future is in your hands.  Don’t sit back and let the disaster of standardized testing effect your child.

Here are the 3 main ways standardize tests will hinder your child if you don’t do something to counter it.

  • Teaching to the test limits the wide range of information needed for college and the workplace

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Since standardize testing has such high stakes for how much a school district gets in funding, they focus only on the subjects that are being tested.  It is old news for anyone in education that subjects like music, art, history, science, gym and many more have been cut back drastically or even cut out altogether. To read more about why these subjects are being cut, read this article from Fair Test.  Because so much emphasize is put on reading and math test scores, basic, easy information is drilled into students ad nauseum. Not any test prep that I have ever seen is anything but questions where easy answers – and more importantly, easy WRONG answers, can be gotten.  There is every little thinking that the students actually need to do.  They don’t have to think of answers to multiple-step problems that real mathematics majors need to be able to do.  They don’t have to read and synthesize information that business people need to do.  When in the real world, successful people draw on a variety of experiences and knowledge to get unique answers to problems that our out there.  In the real world, there are no multiple choice questions to pick from.  Colleges and employers are looking for well-rounded individuals who can think outside the box, which our children will not be able to do.

 

  • So much pressure is on students to do well so the school district looks good

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Remember, before these tests became high-stakes test when the No Child Left Behind, the tests were to show a random SAMPLE of EVERYTHING your child knows.  However, with the pressure on to perform well on these tests, the students are only taught EXACTLY what will be on the test.  So while an entire month is slated for just preparing and taking the test, the rest of the school year prior to the test is teaching only what is on the test and nothing more in a huge majority of classrooms across the country.  This is why our children are not getting a well-rounded education that will allow them to be flexible in the workplace. However, it is worse than that.  Teachers and Admimistators, whose salary depend on the outcome of the tests, pound into our children the importance of doing well. I see kids freak out every year at this time.  The local school districts have extra psychologists and other mental health expects on staff to help the students though this time.  Several of my students report their third grade friends are throwing up on a regular basis because they are so scared and nervous.  Kids are breaking down in tears or acting out.  How is this type of pressure on elementary school children good or effective? I feel it is child abuse to put our children through this pressurized situation.

How would it be if our children believe that education was a fabulous gift that was being given to them.  Something that they valued.  Something they couldn’t wait to get more of.  We need to get children to WANT to learn – and high stakes testing cannot be part of that equation.

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  • Students only learn how to guess well, instead of being able to do the actual work.

 

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Since the tests are all multiple choice and there is no penalty for guessing, most of the test prep is on HOW to take the test.  These test-taking strategies include practice such as:  figuring out which answers are wrong, so that you can guess better; how to skim passages until you find the only part that you need to answer the question; how to write the first and last paragraph well and put in just enough in the middle to look like you can write.  Doing well on the test only shows that you can TEST well, not that you actually know the subject.  I have seen student after student not do well on standardize tests because they second guess themselves, or because they freeze up but they knew the materials.  The test is also designed to trick you so that you don’t have confidence in your answers.  For all that, you never get a chance to see how you actually did so you can get better.  In a normal situation, you take a test and then see what you did wrong so you can re-learn that information.  However, with these tests no one ever sees exactly what you need to work on – not the student, not the teachers, not even the administrators.  All we ever know is how good a student/class/school does compared to others.

So as you can see, there is nothing good that comes from these tests that our children spend so much time on each and every year. The only way you can prepare your child for a successful future is for you to take matters into your own hands and get them interested in learning and get them interested in reading and writing for its own sake.  Encourage your child to explore topics that they are interested in – share it with them and it will not only help them, but it will help you as a family grow as well.

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