The student and standardized Testing
Recently there has been a reliance on testing to raise student achievement; there is though, something terribly wrong with doing that. A significant number of students drop out of college each year and one reason is that they are not ready for school.
While preparing students for test might improve test grades, there are a few down sides to the testing regime. It emphasizes the role of the teacher and seems to forget the role of the student and parent.
When students take a test it is their effort that should be of foremost consideration; teachers are there for support. It becomes even more important when students are nearing college entrance. Indeed students should be working all year round in order to come to grips with their work, their school exams, and getting ready for college. This is their work.
In particular the performance of the poorer students has been cause for concern and many ideas about improving student performance have been thrown about, but as Paul Tough points out it finally came down to the teacher and so teachers became the focus of attention in lifting the performance of these poorer students. Teachers have therefore been fired, had their tenure taken away, and in general been the focus of blame, for something about which they can do little. Furthermore their requests are largely ignored.
The students’ need to commit his time and effort to his work was not emphasized, and neither was the role of the parent given much thought; both of these omissions are huge and are themselves cause for concern. Studying is hard work, and it needs to be done for several years. Paul Tough and Duckworth present us with the things which characterize successful students; effort and perseverance are two traits which stand out. Optimism is another thing they point to. They refer to these characteristics as grit.
When teachers are, thoughtlessly, forced to give emphasis on getting better test scores, the students’ capacity to work and persevere is ignored. Instead of the student having to go home and develop, with assistance, a schedule of study, he or she is told to rely on the teacher to get him through. When we say studying is hard work we mean a number of things. Research is one of the things which a student needs to learn and practice, for most of his subjects need it. There is more though, note taking and making are also valuable. In mathematics daily practice is required. Indeed at some point the student should have learned how to set himself additional work.
It is possible for a student who is in a home where studying is emphasized, that he or she, will acquire the necessary habits needed for success in high school and beyond. It is for the poorer student, who frequently lacks the study habit, that the problem mainly exists. The emphasis on test taking, deprives him of the time and incentive needed to develop the necessary qualities he will need in college. Those qualities are perseverance, effort, and organization. His teachers are too taken up with test preparation to attend to the development of the really important attributes, persistence, hard work, and organization. Consequently many students will pass their tests but they did not develop the needed strength to make it in college and so many drop out.
If we focus on getting a student to get good test grades it is most likely that the other qualities such as perseverance, a belief in his effort, will not be acquired and when he faces difficulties in college, he will cave. Life itself is a difficult thing, and does not spare anyone, so those qualities such as persevering when there are difficulties will always be needed if the person is not to accept just what comes to him.
When a student works vigorously to pass his tests, he is ready for college and life. If his passing has relied on the teacher he or she is just not ready. Teaching poor students the requisite skills take time and this is just what standardized test taking removes from the poor student, time, and it is invested in test preparation.