Joe Schott brilliantly captured how I feel about standardized tests, especially regarding the situation at Mitchell High School.
In Heidi Beedle’s article in March’s edition of the Southeast Express, the president of the Colorado Springs Education Association said:
“If you look at the challenges that a population like Mitchell might have, we’re not looking at an affluent school,” he said. “You’re looking at a significant amount of English language learners, and that’s a hurdle. You can test those people. You could test me in Chinese, I’m not going to do very well. ... There are issues that underlie how people learn, not just this particular group of students. When you look at test scores alone, if all you’re doing is looking at test scores you’re not solving the problem.”
The fact that exams not only remain the primary method to determine if a teacher is efficient at their job, but also gauge the intelligence of students who take those tests is awful and wrong. This system benefits no one and fails the students and teachers.
When children flunk a test, that doesn’t mean they don’t comprehend the material. Some kids have test anxiety or, as Schott explained, may face a language barrier. We all learn in different ways and tests don’t capture that detail.
When I was in school, I didn’t view tests as an assessment that helped determine where I was in regards to the rest of my peers or where I needed to be in class. Tests served as an obstacle. I needed to boost my grade closer to an A – nothing more.
Teachers eventually steered me away from that mentality and highlighted the importance of a test beyond a grade.
With faculty at Mitchell having to re-apply for their jobs at the end of the year (who knows how many will return?), who will demonstrate the importance of understanding the application of a test for the future rather than just earning a good grade?
I’m not the greatest chef in the world and if I had to take a home economics class, I’d likely fail. I’m pitiful when it comes to mostly anything about cars and I’d struggle there as well.
Put me in anything art related and guess what? I’m not passing that either. But give me something related to sports history and I’d likely excel.
Now look at those examples; I’ve failed at 75% of the mentioned topics and only passed one.
If a student gets an F, they feel inadequate and slowly lose desire to participate in class and eventually elsewhere.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
The quote, by an unknown author, but attributed to Albert Einstein, highlights the problems kids face with standardized testing. One size does not fit all.
Imagine how many kids believe they’re failures because of standardized tests. Imagine the stumbling blocks that failure on tests leave children. Picture the child who might create a painting worthy of praise in an art museum, but is afraid to do so because they failed in school. Imagine a kid who’s great at history or reading, but has test anxiety when it comes to math. What if that student is the next Great American Novelist?
Standardized testing suppresses their talent, leaving student after student believing they’re disappointments because a test says they’re not capable.
In the case of Mitchell, booting teachers serves no one for the better and potentially having the state take over the school won’t benefit the district.
There should be other options to firing teachers — better training, more English as a Second Language courses, assistance for students who must work, and so many more solutions.But for many Mitchell High School teachers, those options were let off the table and they now face economic uncertainty, during a pandemic when unemployment is high and uncertainty reigns. Experts have long questioned if standardized testing is the best way to make sure students are learning.Many college professors believe it isn’t, as the test questions and format tend to benefit students from wealthier districts over those with different circumstances. Again, one size does not fit all.
Students deserve better, educators certainly need better treatment and testing methods need to change to reflect the times. How many kids will suffer due to these adjustments in staffing?