Standardized tests have been a huge source of controversy in the education world for some time. Everyone wants to find a way to ensure that all our kids are learning and that every child has equal opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately, we all seem to have different ideas on how that ought to be achieved.

Higher-ups tend to lean toward standardized testing. If standards are the same across all districts and states, then students ought to take the same tests, right? The idea is that there must be a minimum standard that all students have to achieve. The idea is honorable, but the method is critically flawed.

See, as much as each student ought to have equal opportunity, they don’t. Students across the nation have a diverse set of backgrounds. Some come from rich families while others are poor. One child might be the first in their family to graduate, but another might just be following a tradition of higher education. While students in one neighborhood get a nutritional dinner and full night’s sleep, students in another neighborhood go hungry and spend a sleepless night listening to gunshots and domestic violence.

standardized test

What are we losing by forcing a blanket test on all classrooms and students?
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There are other barriers, too: language, learning disabilities, parental involvement, caring for younger siblings, working to help the family out… the list goes on. While our children should all be given as much opportunity as possible, it’s naïve to think that we can also throw a blanket test over all children and call that “fair.”

That’s just the sort of problem one teacher recently wrote about. Published on Jessie B Ramey’s blog, Yinzercation, an anonymous Pittsburgh teacher related her disturbing account of giving the GRADE standardized test to her 11-year-old students. Her story pokes gaping holes in standardized tests, the GRADE in particular, showing us just how fallible these tests can be.

Not only do standardized tests tend to be racially/culturally biased (not on purpose), but they also bring teaching and learning to a complete halt while they are carried out several times a year. Kids are taking dozens of these tests every year, and they don’t even get a chance to learn from their mistakes most of the time. They take the test, and then it’s done. A pass means they get to move on, while a fail means they must do better next time—though doing “better” is hard when you can’t find out what you did wrong in the first place. This constant onslaught of standardized tests creates a toxic environment for everyone.

Check out Ramey’s blog post to read the teacher’s story. It’s clear that our current method of standardized testing isn’t working for a number of reasons—now it’s time to figure out something new, something better. For the kids.