The Standardized Testing Hierarchical Pressure Education Essay

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The teachers in the U.S require teaching material within a period before students are assessed by their state. This structure inescapably results educators "teach to the test, than teaching to the subject matter of focusing on the needs of the student." (Cerda) This promotes teachers to be uncreative towards the content they teach and disregard students' individual learning techniques.

Within the educational system there is an enormous amount of pressure directed at different levels of the organization. Instructors are pressured by school superintendents to educate their students in only "instrumental learning" so that they correctly answer questions on the state exams. The superintendents also face pressure from the state government due to the "US's focus on metrics, the state the state takes over and current teachers and administrators are fired."(Cerda) As a result of this overwhelming pressure from the nation and state to the individual teacher, there is no incentive and no time to enlighten students to valuable experiences that would deepen their understanding.

Grade Inflation

Grade inflation phenomenon occurs in many educational institutes that range from elementary school to universities. In Anglin and Meng's studies, they define grade inflation as a rise in the amount of higher grades given to students and leads to higher GPAs. (Anglin and Meng 362)

Meanwhile there are many possible factors contributing to the rising average GPA such as changes in student demography and changes in the academic curriculum. (Birnbaum 526)

In 2002, the Bush administration signed a ground-breaking educational Act, known as No Child Left Behind. This Act required "every public school to test every student in reading and math every year from grades three through eight. The results revealed large achievement gaps, Caucasian students scoring higher than minorities." It's still unsure if NCLB has increased student learning.(Simon)

Educators are now more concerned about the value of grades in respect to graduate schools and employers. If grades become less reliable, other measures of intellect like standardized testing's role will become dominant.

One of the major causes of grade inflation is competition. Schools in districts are in competition for resources and acknowledgement from the state and they can use good marks to "market themselves".(Uva) Grade inflation is easy to get away with. The majority of people won't protest about an issue if it benefits them.

Security

The No Child Left Behind Act, signed 10 years ago created standardized testing a key factor of national education policy although it mentioned nothing on test security.

John Kuhn is the school district administrator in Texas and he stated "Standardized testing used to be about understanding and addressing students' needs. Now it's become a quick way to judge kids, teachers and entire districts." (Simon)

The organizations who make these standardized tests claim their exams are fair and dependable although states can set the standards for their region to their liking.

"In Florida last month, a furor erupted when only 27 percent of fourth-graders passed a new, tougher writing test. The state Board of Education promptly, and retroactively, lowered the score required to pass the test - and in a flash, the pass rate jumped to 81 percent."(Simon)

[SOLUTIONS]

Minimizing Multiple Choice

Multiple-choice tests have been subjected to criticism from many educators. While these tests are efficient for teachers they fail in respect to students solving complicated problems and thinking critically. The best solution is to pressure the organizations that create these standardized tests to reduce the amount of multiple-choice question and to develop a new type of test.

"In a drive to set meaningful national standards - and stop states from fiddling with pass rates - the Obama Administration has awarded $330 million to states and corporations working to develop national tests. They're pegged to the Common Core curriculum, a new set of standards being rolled out by nearly every state. The standards lay out what kids should be learning from ages 5 through 18 to prepare them for college and careers."(Simon)

These progressive tests' aims will be to decrease the number of multiple-choice questions and replace them with problems that require ingenuity and critical thinking. The purpose of these assessments would be to discover if students can identify how to connect and associate the things they have learned rather than memorizing facts.

"They can take many forms: essays, speeches, projects, exhibitions, open-ended or extended response exercises, extended tasks, or even portfolios."(Tung)

In 2001, under the administration of President Bush, a new approach to education called the No Child Left Behind Act proposed to use yearly, nation-wide, standardized tests to determine which schools were succeeding and which were failing and to create programs for teacher development (House Rules 1).  The Act "focuses attention on 'failing' schools, seek[s] to weed out teachers who don't raise students' achievement scores and reward those who do" (Clemmitt, 163).  The No Child Left Behind Act required "every public school to test every student in reading and math every year from grades three through eight. The results revealed large achievement gaps, Caucasian students scoring higher than minorities"(Simon).  However, these high-stakes tests, which determine whether teachers and schools are doing a "good" job, are argued to create teachers focused on "testing, rather than student learning" (Weinstein, 2).  This does not promote teachers to be creative with the content they are instructing their students on, and often causes them to disregard the individual learning techniques of different children (cite).  John Kuhn, the school district administrator in Texas, stated, "standardized testing used to be about understanding and addressing students' needs. Now it's become a quick way to judge kids, teachers and entire districts" (Simon).

The standardized tests of the United States cause an extreme amount of competition between schools, who are all hoping to obtain resources and acknowledgement from the state. Schools can use good marks to "market themselves" to different levels of government for more funding (Uva). The phenomenon of grade inflation, a rise in the number of higher grades given to students and leads to higher GPAs (Anglin and Meng, 362), occurs in many educational institutes, from elementary school to universities, out of a desire to get more funding (cite). It is not difficult for a school or teacher to escape punishment for grade inflation, as the majority of people won't protest an issue that benefits them.  Furthermore, despite the fact that the organizations who develop standardized tests claim that their exams are fair and dependable, states can set the standards for their region to their liking. "In Florida [...] a furor erupted when only 27 percent of fourth-graders passed a new, tougher writing test. The state Board of Education promptly, and retroactively, lowered the score required to pass the test - and in a flash, the pass rate jumped to 81 percent" (Simon).

Solutions

When students don't test well, it reflects poorly on teachers.  Therefore, by overhauling the No Child Left Behind Act, the candidate could help to gain a union vote amongst teachers in swing states like Wisconsin and Ohio, who have many public employees who belong to unions.  In February of 2011, over 10,000 demonstrators and teacher union supporters protested the education funding cuts proposed by Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin (CNN).  Given that unions typically back each other, the candidate should campaign to the hundreds of thousands of public servants in Wisconsin. (find poll or graph to demonstrate opinions of unions in these states)

The Race to the Top initiative, while a relatively new initiative begun by the Obama Administration, is attempting to "set meaningful national standards - and stop states from fiddling with pass rates. [Thusfar, the] Obama Administration has awarded $330 million to states and corporations working to develop national tests" (Simon).  States are getting on board with the project, and will encourage new methods of learning, with a clear emphasis on "what kids should be learning from ages 5 through 18 to prepare them for college and careers" (Simon).  These progressive tests' aims will be to decrease the number of multiple-choice questions and replace them with problems that require ingenuity and critical thinking. The purpose of these assessments would be to discover if students can identify how to connect and associate the things they have learned rather than memorizing facts.  "They can take many forms: essays, speeches, projects, exhibitions, open-ended or extended response exercises, extended tasks, or even portfolios" (Tung).

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