ENGL 101 Section 6

Forum for students in ENGL 101 Section 6, Spring 2012, Washington State University

    Charlie Barrows Assignment 4


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    Post  charlie.barrows on Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:17 pm

    The standardized testing system has been around for the past 100 years and over time the importance of the system has continued to increase. Due to constant changes in legislation, the frequency of standardized testing is now higher than ever. There are many issues with these tests, because they are based around a problematic system that despite its flaws is still enforced and promoted. Alfie Kohn’s article;“ The case against standardized testing: raising the scores, ruining the schools” acknowledges these problems and suggests that we should get rid of testing in its entirety. Standardized testing has caused many problems for both teachers and students alike, resulting in increased adverse psychological developments in students, significant curriculum changes, and legislative regulation.
    The pressure of taking these tests is very high considering the significant consequences that actually affect the overall performance of students. The severe consequences of failing these tests include; poor class placement, bad grades and even ridicule from peers. It is because of these pressures, combined with ever increasing time limits that causes students to become very anxious and even fearful when taking these tests. In the article; “Anxiety and Reading Difficulties in Early Elementary School: Evidence for Unidirectional- or Bi-Directional Relations?” it mentions that “researchers have noted that anxiety can negatively impact problem solving, self regulation, and completion of new or difficult tasks requiring efficient information processing” (Karla Stuebing, et al,36). All of the negatively affected cognitive processes are imperative to success on these tests. A study done by Normandeau and Guay found that kindergarten students with reportedly high anxiety levels suffered from poor grades the following year in both math and language classes (Karla Stuebing, et al, 36). Kohn seems to agree with these theories on test anxiety stating that; “tests producing this reaction are not giving us a good picture of what many students really know and can do” (Kohn, 3). Another common problem is for children that have learning disabilities, they often have anxiety disorders develop in academic situations, giving them a huge unfair disadvantage when taking these tests. The testing system is setting up children for failure right from the start, these kids that have a lot more difficult time learning and this only leads to more problems in the future. This anxiety that leads to poor grades on these tests creates further test anxiety and creates this cycle of bad testing grades and emotional distress.
    Students are not the only ones affected by these tests; these tests also play a huge role on determining where funding goes. Tests that do play a role in funding often put a lot of pressure on school administrators (Fuchs-Capizzi, 1). When these schools fail to meet the performance objectives, students are allowed to switch schools, so that they can attend a high performing one. There are a lot of problems with the idea that the schools that are failing should be deprived of funding, and rather than improving these schools we are getting rid of them entirely. Because many school administrators realize the importance of these tests and their results, teachers often “teach to the test” (Kohn, 11).
    One could argue that we could improve these children’s test results and reduce anxiety by “teaching to the test” but the problem with teaching to the test is that it distorts curriculum and ruins the whole point of standardized tests which is; to get an accurate idea of how well children are learning a set curriculum. Teachers end up skipping important parts in American history such as; the Great Depression and the results of the New Deal (Kohn, 19). These same teachers end up devoting the majority of the time focusing on math or literature comprehension, which are considered two of the most troublesome parts of the standardized tests. You cannot train students entirely for a test; it defeats the whole purpose, which is to identify how much a student has learned about the set curriculum.
    The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was created as a standards-based education reform in 2001. The objective of the Act was to set higher standards and establish measurable goals that would improve student’s education quality. The NCLB was a major factor in stating the importance of standardized tests.
    “American schools have made student assessment an either/or proposition. Teacher observations have become increasingly irrelevant as districts and states try to meet the testing targets set by the No Child Left Behind legislation” (Ferriter, 2).
    The counter argument to the importance of standardized tests is this; “The more a test is made to “count” –in terms of being the basis for promoting or retaining students, for funding or closing down schools-the more that anxiety is likely to rise and the less valid the scores become.” (Kohn, 3). Sometimes there is just an ulterior motive of politicians that support testing, since it gives them easy access to statistics making politicians seem concerned (Kohn, 2).There have been a few benefits of the NCLB and its standardized test legislation, “Math scores have improved, on average, for all primary aged school children” (Price, 779), but that article goes on to say;

    “At the secondary level of education, there has been almost no progress. Fallout effects from the legislation are surfacing, such as increases in dropout rates and decreases in 4-year graduation rates” (Price, 780).

    One of the most difficult things to establish in a test is if the test itself has “predictive validity”; this is the problem with these tests in its entirety, it is that they lack predict validity which is defined as the; “degree to which intelligence scores are positively related to real world outcomes” (Feist-Rosenberg, 384). This theory is proven by the fact that there are huge inconsistencies in the data provided by these tests between grade levels.
    In fact many argue that these tests are not focused on the right things, as is the belief of Alfie Kohn;
    “Standardized tests can’t measure initiative, creativity, imagination, conceptual thinking, curiosity, effort, irony, judgment, commitment, nuance, good will, ethical reflection, or a host of other valuable dispositions and attributes.” (Kohn, 9).
    The biggest question we should be asking ourselves is if these tests are measuring the right things and are we measuring these subjects with the right method? These tests only evaluate very narrow aspects of broad subjects, almost always relying on the multiple choice questions as the main basis for scores. Even those that are promoting standardized tests acknowledged the problems of this aspect;
    “In a group of students who do not know very much about a subject, one can score in a very high percentile with relatively little knowledge. Conversely, where a subject has been heavily emphasized in school and learning is advanced in the group as a whole, a student can know a great deal about a subject and wind up with a low percentile score.”(Covakeskie, 2)
    Kohn seems to agree with this idea, since he quotes Roger Farr who says "I don't think there's any way to build a multiple-choice question that allows students to show what they can do with what they know," (Kohn, 8).
    If the information given by these tests is not a valid measure of school effectiveness, then what does it really tell us?
    “Research has repeatedly found that the amount of poverty in the communities where schools are located, along with other variables having nothing to do with what happens in classrooms, accounts for the great majority of the difference in test scores from one area to the next.” (Kohn, 4).
    Kohn is not the only person who has discovered the link between test scores and poverty levels, and furthermore, we cannot expect students deprived of resources with outside social and economic pressures to be testing at the same levels as children who are privileged. “U.S. public schools have become places where separateness is evident, where those who do not have are expected to achieve the same standards as those who have.” (Solley, 2).
    If we do have all of these problems with the current standardized test system and the tests themselves, then why are we allowing them to have such a big impact on our children’s class placement and our schools funding. Kohn’s goal to take out standardized testing from the public school system is very admirable, but it seems highly unlikely. Since there is so much political advocacy for these tests it seems like the most plausible solution would be severe standardized testing reform.

    1. Are their any ways I could add some more length to my paper?
    2.Is their any parts in the paper that need more clarification?
    3. How should I improve my thesis?

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    Post  ross.alexander on Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:23 pm

    1. if you are looking to make it a little bit longer, you might be able to make some of those quotes block quotes. they are all great quotes and support your points. just a thought Smile
    2. I didnt find myself getting lost at all. i you did a great job as far a clarity goes
    3. i also liked your thesis, soooo i guess im really not much help there. sorry ; /

    1.a few minor grammatical errors
    2. i felt like your conclusion was a little weird, almost seemed like you backtracked what you were talking about

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    Post  landon.e.macy on Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:45 pm

    1) you could add length by driving home the points you are making. You've covered em, but now go into such detail that there is literally nothing left.
    2) I followed the essay well. No needing of clarification.
    3) I like the thesis, but try and narrow it down. It kinda seems vague.

    Did well:
    1) explaining what was stated in the thesis statement.
    2) Using example and quote. Very well done.
    3) Argued your points well

    Work on:
    1) the conclusion could wrap up the paper more
    2) Like the other person said, utilize block quotes
    3) Clean it up and finalize the essay for turn in (grammar and punctuations)

    What solutions are there to standardized testing?

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