Testing in Education

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Introduction

Testing is an essential aspect of the education system’s assessment and monitoring of effective pedagogy. However, when testing results are the only end goal of education the process of learning is corrupted, skewed towards manufacturing results at any cost. This reality is heightened when one’s job may depend on it. Thus, the corruption of standardized testing has resulted in decades of warped results in American education. Recent reforms have made the initial moves to move the focus back on learning rather than parroting facts, but the road back to joyous learning will be arduous. 

The Value of Accurate Assessment

While testing is a key component of education, the ways and means of conducting such tests make a supreme difference to how effective those assessments are. A product of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), standardized testing has been creating a toxic environment in schools. Standardized testing has proven to be one of the most stressful aspects to teaching the last few decades, as it has corrupted curriculum, teaching styles, and the overall goals of education. The result has been plummeting performance results and the withdrawal of passion from the profession due to the punitive nature of the tests. 

Working with strategic organizing power, the National Education Association launched a campaign to end “Toxic Testing”, as the specialty group understood that this function of pressurized assessment was one of the greatest roadblocks to learning. As NEA President Dennis Van Roekel put it “It’s past time for politicians to turn their eyes and ears away from those who profit from over-testing our students and listen instead to those who know what works in the classroom” (NEA). Those who know are the quality teachers who have been hamstrung under the stipulations of NCLB.

This movement was spurred on and supported by nationwide parental protests and opted-out focuses around the nation. Parents are tired of the ineffectual and marginalizing aspect of standardized testing, and “Opting-out protests have taken place in Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Alabama and other states. Grassroots parent movements say they will protest until over testing is curbed” (NEA). However, ultimately it is America’s students who have paid the highest price due to standardization, and this method has reduced the development of critical thinking and other aspects as students are pressurized into rote short term recall.

One of the effects of this testing mishap is plummeting achievement in all areas which require critical thinking, memory, and reasoning: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Thus, the administration has implemented the STEM initiative to build up support for all students in this area. Strategic funding, teacher development, and federal support for struggling schools are all part of the long term goal of improving America’s ability to perform, innovate, and lead in this decisive area.  

However, recent reform with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has made major strides in righting this testing wrong. The major changes brought about by ESSA while has now begun implementation is giving educators a new lease on their career. The following six changes are the most healing to a stifled system:

(List ommitted for preview. Available via download).

(Figure 1 ommitted for preview. Available via download).

Testing is an essential aspect of the education system’s assessment and monitoring of effective pedagogy. However, when testing results are the only end goal of education the process of learning is corrupted, skewed towards manufacturing results at any cost. This reality is heightened when one’s job may depend on it. Thus, the corruption of standardized testing has resulted in decades of warped results in American education. Recent reforms have made the initial moves to move the focus back on learning rather than parroting facts, but the road back to joyous learning will be arduous.

(Figure 1 ommitted for preview. Available via download).

Educators, policy makers, and legislatures have come to understand that standardizing detracts from the real value of assessment. The U.S. Department of Education emphasizes, done well and thoughtfully, assessments are tools for learning and promoting equity. They provide necessary information for educators, families, the public, and students themselves to measure progress and improve outcomes for all learners. Done poorly, in excess, or without clear purpose, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, draining creative approaches from our classrooms. (U.S. Department of Education)

Those creative approaches are now coming to the forefront all around the nation as teachers finally have the freedom and support to define their own paths in the classroom. While it will likely take a good amount of time to see the fruits of these changes, educators are already proactively responding to the lessening of tension. Policy makers and educators agree good tests must be:

(List ommitted for preview. Available via download).

These methods are already shaping up with the positive potential to encourage students to reignite their passion for learning.

Conclusion

Testing is a natural aspect of the education system of assessment and implementation of new strategies. Testing mistakes in the past have undermined educator’s ability to teach to the fullest extent of their ability, but new reforms have unshackled educators, offering new paths of assessment and cultivation of learning.

Notes

1: Chart Retrieved from: http://neatoday.org/2014/10/25/infographic-teachers-speak-standardized-testing/

2: Chart Retrieved from: http://neatoday.org/2016/03/10/essa-assessments/

Works Cited

Long, Cindy. “Six Ways ESSA Will Improve Assessments.” Neatoday.org, 2016. Retrieved from: http://neatoday.org/2016/03/10/essa-assessments/

Long, Cindy, and Sara Robertson. “NEA Launches Campaign to End 'Toxic Testing'.” Nea.org, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.nea.org/home/59747.htm

Walker, Tim. “NEA Survey: Nearly Half Of Teachers Consider Leaving Profession Due to Standardized Testing.” Nea.org, 2016. Retrieved from: http://neatoday.org/2014/11/02/nea-survey-nearly-half-of-teachers-consider-leaving-profession-due-to-standardized-testing-2/

U.S. Department of Education. “Fact Sheet: Testing Action Plan.” Ed.gov, 24 Oct. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-testing-action-plan