I’ll be the first to tell you that I didn’t test well as a kid and struggled with my fair share of tests in school. There was always a lot of pressure, and sometimes it got to me. What if I run out of time with questions left on the test? What if I fill in the wrong bubble on the sheet? What if I struggle more than the other kids in the class?
These were (and still are) valid concerns. Especially at the elementary school level. Tests were not easy – but they weren’t supposed to be. Tests act as a measurement, a barometer of a child’s progress and aptitude. They prepare students for how they’ll be tested in the real world.
Unfortunately, there has been a lot of talk recently about a “growing movement” of parents opting-out of standardized tests on behalf of their children. Many parents claim that too much class time is spent preparing for the testing and the tests create too much pressure on children.
These parents have a point. It’s fair to ask questions about the quantity of testing in schools. And social and academic pressures are legitimate issues for parents to think about. But eliminating testing is not the solution. Neither is urging students who desperately need information on how they’re doing to opt out. Standardized tests serve very important purposes, including gauging student growth, giving students and parents good information on student progress, and helping teachers hone their craft. Tests are not the end all and be all, but they are an important tool.
Perhaps the most frustrating argument perpetuated by this opt-out “movement” is that testing forces educators to “teach to the test.” This argument is nonsensical. Yes, teachers will teach the material that will be on the test. There is nothing wrong with that. What is a problem is when teachers rigidly stick to bubble-sheet teaching and wait until the last minute to do test-prep. That is not a testing issue – that is a teaching issue. Great teachers are bringing content to life and assessing student mastery throughout the year. All the more reason why robust teacher and principal evaluations incorporating a range of factors are so important.
Testing allows teachers and students alike to keep student achievement front-and-center year after year. Testing helped prepare me for the real-world. My parents would help me prepare for testing, but at the end of the day, it was up to me to perform well. That is reality. If you want to go to a selective K-12 school or college and if you want to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher—name almost any competitive profession in our nation today—you must learn to take timed, rigorous tests.
School should prepare us for the tough world we live in and eliminating or opting-out of testing only prevents our most vulnerable students from being ready for an increasingly competitive world.