Examine THIS

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


6 thoughts on “Examine THIS

  1. Ami,
    First of all, mazal tov on finishing your sophomore year! (I won’t ask what your GPA is 😉 )

    You wrote: “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.” I agree. You can also substitute the word “teachers” for “students.” Because No Child Left Behind focused funding on test scores, good teachers who teach how to think instead of what to answer end up getting a raw deal as well.

    Have a great vacation!

  2. I agree on this trend in public education especially. My dad has always said that same thing about the SAT, it only gauges how well you can take a test. While I do not think giving more funding to failing schools will fix them, it doesn’t make sense either to concentrate funding on the schools that do slightly better than the failing ones. In regards to the CAHSEE my biggest issue with it is that if one can pass it in sophomore year, what is the purpose of junior and senior year? Its just another unnecessary test in the slew of tests California public school kids have to take. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this clusterf*ck that we call the public school system, other than rebuilding from the ground up, or of course, charter schools.

  3. Ami,
    I could not agree with you more. As a society we have lost the meaning of education in both the private and public sector. In my student teaching placement this semester which was in an “urban” area and 98% of the students are English Language Learners, the students took a standardized test once every other week. These students did not care at all about them and they would bubble in whatever answer they felt like, without reading the question. To be honest, I don’t blame them. There are studies that prove that standardized tests are more about test taking skills, than knowledge acquired. So why on earth are we subjecting them to this? What are they learning? Furthermore, we are not using the tests for anything but negative reinforcement. The schools who do poorly get put into Program Improvement status and those who do well get nothing. It is silly. (Glad to get that off my chest.) The real problem is that we need to examine, is how our education system is educating. We are teaching to tests right now and that is not a way for students to learn. Shouldn’t we be focusing on creative ways to implement curricula? Shouldn’t teachers and administrators be held accountable? They are not right now. Thanks for posting this.

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