After a week of extreme “academic” intensity, I’m done with final exams. There’s a reason I typed the word “academic” in quotation marks.
So much of students’ desires to grasp and comprehend material in school stems from a desire to get good grades. And the desire to get good grades comes from the desire to get into a “good” college. And the desire to get into college derives from the desire to succeed (or at least be considered one). Someone asked me today, “What did you learn this year?” I started telling them what I though I had learned, and within seconds, I was talking about my grade in chemistry class.
It’s not just me. My friends and I are not the only ones who feel an intense societal pressure to get good grades for the sake of future endeavors. And there’s really no one to blame for America’s ardent fixation on numbers and scores. American society as a whole is obsessed with ratings and rankings. More specifically, a great deal of education and the process of college admissions is based on test scores. The SAT, in my opinion, and in the opinion of several teachers with whom I’ve spoken about this, gauges one thing: how well you can take the SAT.
High school students feel exceedingly pressured to take AP (Advanced Placement) classes which, in essence, force instructors to teach to a test. It’s because they think that it “looks good” on a college application. These classes leave little leeway for teachers. One of the most effective ways of learning (for me) is to be engaged in active class discussion, and many AP teachers feel that they can’t go “off-script” because they have to teach students the talking points. Even some of my foreign language teachers feel forced to teach at a quicker pace, regardless of full comprehension, and proceed to the next chapter in the textbook because they are mandated to test us a certain amount of times during the year.
I go to a private school, so most funding doesn’t depend on testing. But my friends who go to LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) public schools have to take standardized tests all the time. Teachers, according to my friends at public schools, get frustrated because their teaching time is depleted to make time for standardized tests.
Often times, students won’t even be told what the tests are for. One LAUSD high school student, when asked what the SPA is for, said, “Something to do with making sure the teachers are doing what they’re ‘supposed’ to be doing…no one really gives a crap. Most teachers dont even do them.”
Students all throughout California schools have to take the CST (California Standards Test), also. And, according to the same student, “the superintendent threatened to close down (the school) if our math scores didn’t go up.” So instead of teaching, the district is focusing on allocating funds to the schools with the best scores– not the worst. Students also have to take the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam) one time during sophomore year. If students get below a certain percentile on the CAHSEE, they can’t graduate from high school until they retake it and do a better job.
Tests, numbers, and statistics shouldn’t be the scale by which students are judged. The pressures and setbacks that they generate are counterproductive a full, comprehensive education