As the end of the first nine weeks comes to an end, students are getting closer to benchmark season and, eventually, STAAR tests. Everything that is taught to us the entire school year is curated for standardized testing. It’s the same routine every year: wake up early, have #2 pencils, bring a snack, walk out the door and then remember that you left your water bottle inside. You are then stuck in a classroom the whole day with no social interaction, staring at the clock until the final bell rings.
Schools should not have standardized tests.
Fighting exhaustion and battling headaches isn’t the only reason why standardized tests should be removed. It is also the fact that they are unjust assessments of student performance. Standardized testing became mandatory in schools with the No Child Left Behind Act from 2001 under the presidency of George W. Bush. The whole thing was centered on having a system that would add to student transcripts. The “successful” students are the ones who have high scores on the test, whereas the students who “may not be as qualified” are the ones who have lower scores.
This is not a fair evaluation because testing days are one day out of the year with a variety of circumstances. According to the National Library of Medicine, about 25 to 40 percent of students in the United States have test anxiety. That’s anywhere from 560 to 900 students out of the total 2,247 students that go to MacArthur. This is a more serious issue than people want to admit. Anxiety causes your brain to go overload, or you just go blank. There have been reports by teachers all around the country that have included students having panic attacks or passing out as they sit down to take a standardized test. It’s not just high school students, but it goes all the way to elementary students as well. Children should not have to worry about failing or enduring traumatic mental breakdowns because of a test.
If a student doesn’t experience things like this on a regular test it does not mean that they won’t be on a standardized test or that they’re faking it. Anxiety comes in many different forms, and the situations for the tests are very different. A normal test in an everyday class does not carry the same weight that a standardized test does. The entire school year builds up to the state test, which has a whole procedure for the school and student body to go through. The weeks leading up to the test are spent reviewing and teachers giving out reminders. Many people are talking about how they are going to fail it, or they are nervous wrecks themselves. It is also clear that the teachers and staff are not looking forward to it either, as it is entirely taken from them when they could be having another lesson or planning their curriculum. Considering all of this, it is not surprising that so many students dread testing days.
This system is unreasonable for teachers as well. When the average score on a state test for an entire class is low, the efforts of that teacher is called into question. Teachers teach so children and young adults can gain more knowledge and grow. They are a crucial part of a young person’s development. A test does not dictate if the students are responding to the way they are being taught. In order to find that out you ask the students. There have been teachers from Washington D.C., Florida, and even Houston that have been fired because their students did not do well on a standardized test.
If you’re wondering if an education system can work without state tests, the answer is yes, and there is proof of that. Finland is regarded as having one of the best education systems in the world. They have zero standardized tests. The only test they take is at the end of high school and that is optional depending on the path you take after you graduate. The schools there are focused on students and teachers cooperating with one another and building a more communicative environment, according to the World Economic Forum. They don’t encourage the competition that exists here in the U.S., where schools and districts are constantly trying to prove that one is better than the other. Student graduation rates in Finland are significantly higher, and the dropout rates are much lower than those of the United States. There is a way to create a happier and more involved education system that sets students up for success.
There is a way to have students want to come to school, and for teachers to enjoy everything they’re teaching, and standardized tests are not the way to do it. Not only is the pressure of it detrimental to the mental health of students, but it feeds into a culture of competitiveness and hostility, rather than one full of cooperation and understanding. Students are willing to be engaged in lessons, only if the education system is willing to listen.