Do Standarized Tests Help or Hinder Education?

Standardized tests have caused anxiety in the hearts of American students since the first use of the SAT 1926. Today testing begins in elementary schools. With the induction of Common Core Standards every math unit comes with pre and post unit tests for all grade levels. Mandatory state testing begins in grade three. Government officials tell us these tests are needed to determine the quality of our kids’ education. Teachers often tell us that these tests take away from learning time in the classroom. As a parent it is hard to know what is best for our child at times, especially when you see faces full of confusion and fear, wondering if this test performance will mean that they are not smart.
In her article, Breaking the Grade, Amy Dean states:

Parents clearly have legitimate reasons to demand better—and to join with others to reject school privatization, budget cuts, and high-stakes testing. Teachers and parents interact and relate with students on a daily basis. They have a better grasp of their own child’s needs than administrators or legislators, whose priorities are not grounded in the realities of the classroom or the dining room.

The article goes on to issue a further call-to-action for parents to unite in calling for change in the use of standardized testing practices. However, her opinion of the education reform movement isn’t much better. What then is the solution? I agree that the overtesting of students takes away from valuable learning time. Teachers, rather than governemnt officials, should be making decisions about what educational system will work best for our students. Those in the classroom should be listened to.
As parents, we have an obligation to listen to our teachers, our children and our instincts. We need to ask ourselves what we want the next generation to learn. Do I want my child to be good at taking tests or good at problem-solving, good at memorizing information or curious to search out answers for themselves. In our family, we value curiosity. This, however, is not a skill that can be tested with a bubble sheet
I agree that our education system needs reform. But, like Ms. Dean’s article, I have no clear answers as to what the best path to follow will be. I will learn as my children learn and ask questions as I encourage them to do. I can only hope that if enough of us ask questions the answers will begin to emerge.


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