Standardized tests are wrong

The theory is academic preparation. But theories are one thing… (Photo by Wikimedia)

By Stephanie Griffin
Test anxiety is a real thing and more and more students are starting to develop it. Schools put more of a focus on grades and tests and less focus on the student’s learning. Students are under a lot more pressure to perform well academically in order to achieve success in their chosen career path.
Since schools are focusing more on testing in order to not be labeled as a “failing school” because the students didn’t perform well on tests, some subjects are being focused more on and the other subjects are forgotten. The curriculum is pretty much centered on Language Arts and Math. Science and Social Studies are pretty much forgotten because lesson plans are more geared towards the two subjects that students are tested for during the MCAS. Despite some students’ feelings towards science and social studies, the study of the subjects develop well-rounded students, even if they’re not being tested on it.
In order to get into college, seniors have to take the SATs. This test is supposed to help colleges determine if the student they’re reading the application for is “suitable for their university.” Not only is this one test, focused on two subjects, one of the biggest things determining your college path, the anxiety leading up to it is unbearable. High school teachers drill into students’ heads that, effectively, if you don’t do well you’ll go to a bad college.
Students spend hours in class and out preparing for one test, and the test itself is awful. First off, the SAT itself costs $49 to take in Mass., and that’s just the regular test. There are fees tacked on for changing your date, registering by phone, and registering late. Secondly, the test environment is a killer, especially if you have anxiety. Students are crammed into a room for four hours, taking this one test.
It’s even worse when you’re waiting for the scores. For five weeks, students are left in the dark as to what they scored. And when the scores get back, it wasn’t even as awful as previously estimated. The perfect score is 2400, but it’s not the end of the world if you get below 1400.
And let’s say you get into a good university with your SAT score. Alright, great job! Oh, what’s that? You want to be a teacher? In Massachusetts? Meet the MTEL. The MTEL, the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure, is a series of tests required to begin teaching in schools in Massachusetts.
Depending on your concentration, you may need to take any number of MTELs. If you’re in Early Education, for example, you take 3 tests. For a high school English teacher, there’s also 3 tests. These aren’t just easy-peasy MCAS or even SAT level tests. There’s no skating by if you get a not-so-stellar grade. If you fail, you fail.
Oh, have we mentioned the price? There’s a price tag. The Foundations of Reading test, for an Early Education major, runs a price of $155 for each time you take the test. And remember, if you fail, you have to take it again. These are heavily specified tests, so if you were to find yourself stumped with Early Education and want to go to high school level English, you’d have to take another test.
And even then, the tests only test you on whether or not you know the material. Teachers may know how many different ways you can analyze a Shakespearean sonnet, or what way a child is mispronouncing a word, but may not know how to actually teach students about Shakespeare, or how to correct a child.
Others will argue that tests is important in the student’s learning. They help determine if they are understanding what they have been taught for the years they’ve been in schools. The MCAS and SATs help with that and the MTELs help the state determine if someone is good enough to be a teacher. They help schools know what to work on and help students achieve academic success.