A Brief Statement on the Culture of Prioritizing Standardized Tests

One of the biggest issues with educational systems today is the regional, national and global competitiveness created by constant quantitative evaluations centered around the idea that in order for a society or country to be successful there needs to be a large educated and employable workforce. In many cases, these misunderstood workforces can be attributed to the result of drastic educational reforms. During this process of reformation, a student’s intrinsic desire to explore, create and learn is negatively affected by the misguided decisions of policymakers and stakeholders attempting to “fix” systems that are poorly reflecting the societies they serve or shaping the perspectives they are trying to accomplish. Ultimately this leads to more frustrated teachers, students and administrators.

We first need to question and understand that globalization and other political initiatives meant to improve and reform education are negatively impacting the individual and the society that individual will potentially serve. Specifically, how do current educational practices, driven by standardized results and constant data tracking, inhibit or diminish a student’s innate desire to create, think critically and solve complex problems? This question can lead to what many modern educators become frustrated with, this current perception of education as being one large contradiction. A paradox in which educators are teaching students to be creative freethinking individuals but are assessing and forcing students to be compliant, standardized data points.

We preach to students that we want them to think freely, solve problems, create solutions, invent, innovate, discover passions, but yet we focus on curricula and achievement linked to the performance on talentless mandated assessments. A performance that is measured by a set of specific, standardized learning outcomes that quantitatively measure growth. As educators, we know and understand that students are born with a desire to play, create, invent and connect. We know that in order for students to build the necessary social and critical thinking skills to become relevant and effective members of society, as well as contribute to the necessary innovations society needs to thrive, students need to be given opportunities to build and practice these skills by completing open-ended creative learning experiences while in an active, constructive and encouraging learning environment. Many educators refer to this as teaching in a student-centered learning environment. An environment where students are active participants in their learning instead of passive receptors of knowledge. Due to the current nature and the perception of data-driven pedagogy, many educators are led to believe that building these skills in an active learning environment is not a priority and instead are reluctantly convinced to standardize learning experiences and are forced to focus more on quantitative products rather than the qualitative processes.

For most, the current state of education in the United States is that of data-driven lessons leading to quantitative measurable outcomes. Many educators’ perception of teaching is ensuring that students are prepared for state assessments and have the ability to perform well on these assessments. With this current mindset in place, educators fear that if they provide more meaningful creative experiences focusing on collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving, students will perform poorly on state assessments and will have a negative effect on the teachers and schools evaluations.

“I would love to bring more creative experiences to my students, but I already don’t have enough time to cover what’s on the “test”” – Majority of Teachers

 Even though many teachers believe in the importance of building students’ social skills through creative and collaborative projects. This standardization not only affects educators but it affects administrators, parents, board members, the community, taxpayers and more importantly and often forgotten, the students.

So what should we do? For starters we shift the priority from performance on standardized tests to more student-centered experiences. Experiences much more enjoyable by teachers and students. Easier said than done, in the meantime, we’ll continue to cover any visible writing/motivational poster in schools, hold pep rallies, order students to get good sleep, raise the level of anxiety of both teachers and students, all while questioning our fellow teachers on how they are preparing students for the tests.