ENGL 101 Section 6

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

    Teal Delys Assignment 4


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    Post  tealdelys on Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:03 pm

    Teal Delys
    Aree Metz
    Engl 101 Section 6
    24 February 2012
    The Argument Against Standardized Testing
    How do you measure intelligence? Do you take IQ test? Can a test really measure a person’s ability to think? An attempt at gauging the intelligence of youth today is miserable failing in the United States today. Standardized testing has become the way to tell how intelligent a person is, yet the definition of aptitude seems to have changed with the tests. Standardized tests are hurting education because of the limits they place on knowledge and the pressure that is put on passing them.
    Standardized tests are meant to show how students and teachers are performing in school today by calculating how many questions students got right on a standard test. While this approach seems smart, pulling it off is much harder. Tests today only show what students memorized in class rather than exercising deep thinking skills. The most efficient tests are the most popular because they are easy to grade, but these tests are the worst kinds of tests. Alfie Kohn explains that these tests “usually don’t assess the skills and dispositions that matter most…they tend to be contrived exercises that measure how much students have managed to cram into short-term memory” (5). Knowing facts is not a bad thing, but when so much time spent on only these tests, students fail to learn more important skills like critical thinking and working in groups. Multiple choice tests mislead students into thinking that “ ‘a right or wrong answer is available for all questions and problems’ in life and that ‘someone else already knows the answer to [all these questions], so original interpretations are not expected” (Kohn 12). Creativity is made less important than reaching an expected answer. Time tests add more influence to the wrong kind of knowledge, too. Timed tests show students that getting something done fast is valued over getting something done right. Students that are slower learners than others feel like there is something wrong with them when there is not. Also, it has become almost taboo to work with other people to solve a problem. Working together is considered cheating rather than collaborative, which reinforces the idea that “only what you can do alone is of any value” (Kohn 12). The standardized tests today are not made to show the important abilities that students need to possess to excel in life; they are made at the convenience of the companies that produce and grade them.
    Standardized tests have become such a controversial issue because of the importance of passing them. There is a lot of pressure on teachers and students to improve every year on the tests; if they do no, a student may not pass a grade, a teacher will not get that bonus he or she wants, and an administrator may have to take classes to prove he or she should maintain his or her position. Many school’s test scores determine the amount of funding that school will get the next year. The results of standardized tests have a large impact on the future of schools and the people in them, but they were made and required by public officials. Alfie Kohn states that “tests have lately become a mechanism by which public officials can impose their will on schools, and they are doing so with a vengeance” (1). Because the tests measure the less important skills students will need in the future, clearly they are not built for the students. Kohn is right when he says they are built to show that politicians care about what is going on in school and that they want to hold teachers accountable for the success of their students, but they are not the ones whose futures are at stake in the matter. The tests should be about the students and what attributes they must develop to live in this world when they grow up, not a politician’s worries about getting elected again. The pressure on standardized tests is putting the wrong ideas in children’s heads. Because so much depends on passing them and because the tests do not measure the truly significant kind of brainpower, a premium is being placed on shallow knowledge. The intelligence of a student should be measured by someone who spends day after day with him or her and knows what the student is capable of, not a test created by someone uninvolved in the students’ lives.
    Another common problem with the importance of standardized tests is the pressure on teachers to “teach to the test”. John F. Covaleskie thinks that teaching to the test is caused by “unnecessarily bad decisions made at the level of district office, building principal, or classroom teacher” (6). He says that teachers should not change their curriculum to match the test because their normal curriculum should cover what is on the test, like his daughter, whose class “scored at or above grade level on the nationally normed standardized test…[yet] she refuses to look at the test before its administration” (6). While this may work for Covaleskie’s daughter, other teachers complain that they do not have the time to teach anything other than what is on the test and the skills learned from the test are not satisfactory. This may also be because of those “bad decisions” made by administrators, caused by too much reliance on the scores of the tests. Of course administrators and teachers feel pressured to teach to the test because too much hangs in the balance. They are worried that their school will be ridiculed and not receive enough money to continue doing a good job teaching their students. In situations like this, and especially in poor school districts, schools feel like they do not have a choice but to do whatever it takes to get better scores on standardized tests. John R. Tanner explains the uselessness of this method by comparing it to taking a vision test when getting a driver’s license:
    The result [of using scores from students that were taught how to pass the test] might be akin to what would happen if people studied for the eye test at the Department of Motor Vehicles. We would have lots of people passing the test, but we wouldn’t have a clue whether they actually could see well enough to drive. That eye test only works when it can reference something meaningful beyond itself. When it refers only to itself, it should be obvious it tells us nothing about the thing it was trying to measure, and interpretations that suggest otherwise are just plain wrong. (2)
    Results for standardized tests should not design instruction, yet this is the role they have taken. Every year teachers look at the results from the year before to see what they have to improve on this year. This sounds helpful, but it is not when the material is not giving youth the right kind of education. Teachers should be teaching students how to think and solve problems instead of memorizing facts to pass a test that does not relate to the real working world.
    The next problem with standardized tests is how the scores are interpreted. John R. Tanner writes that “in a norm-referenced test, the comparison is to a nationally representative set of students, and in a criterion-referenced test, the comparison is to a line drawn at a particular test score” (3). This means that in norm-referenced tests, there are always winners and losers. Comparison tests are fairer because a standard of good and bad is set out. However, many systems still use norm-referencing, making some schools always look bad, no matter how much they have improved. Why is norm-referencing used? Because this is what the tests are designed for; “standardized test methodologies were designed to rank order or ‘distribute’ students within a domain and do so consistently to allow for meaningful comparisons within and among schools” (Tanner 3). After getting the results from students, test makers also revise the tests. Tanner explains that if forty to sixty percent of students get a question right, that question is considered worthy material and stays on the test. If too many students get an answer right or wrong, the question is thrown out. They also take into consideration whether high-performing or low-performing students get different questions correct. They goal is not too put meaningful questions on the test that are hand-picked to display what a student knows, but to show a consistent distribution of results ( Tanner 3-4). “A truly engaging item that all kids get right and that represents the true state of what students are learning will be excluded, while a less engaging item that doesn’t but behaves well statistically will make it” (Tanner 5); making tests this way does not make sense. The test maker’s goal is to find an average statistically- this is in no way an appropriate way to gauge the intelligence of students and determine the futures of schools.
    A question commonly debated over is who should be making decisions about how to hold schools accountable and measure the intelligence of students. Covaleskie believes that politicians are the ones who should be making these decisions because we live in a democracy, they are our representatives, and therefore this is their job. He states:
    Teachers often argue that outside control of the curriculum demeans them, disempowers them, deskills them, deprives them of their professional authority and autonomy, and reduces them to the status of mere functionaries and employees (McNeill, 1988). These claims seem to me to misunderstand the nature of our particular profession… Teachers are culture workers, charged with the responsibility to foster in children the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that make democracy possible. Just as these things are not determined by the children’s parents apart from community and society, they are not determined by the professional experts. The nature of society in a democracy is properly shaped in the commons, not in private, nor by the market; it is properly the work of the people communally rather than individually, and not the experts. (3)
    Covaleskie may be right that our country is a democracy and our elected representatives are supposed to make decisions for the well-being of our communities, but clearly this decision to give so much influence to standardized testing is wrong. When it comes to making decisions about a person’s health, a person usually goes to the doctor because that is who he or she trusts. When it comes to education, who knows better than the experts? Who knows students than the people who spend every day with them? Testing is not bad in itself, but necessary to check up on the progress of students. What is bad is the influence and power that standardized testing in the United States has gained.
    In other countries, standardized testing has been tried and thrown out because of the problems we are experiencing here. Multiple choice, timed tests like we are using today do not support the kind of learning students need in their futures. Kohn explains that “this situation is also unusual from an international perspective…In the U.S. we subject children as young as six to standardized exams, despite the fact that almost all experts in early childhood education condemn this practice” (1). No other country relies on standardized tests the way we do to tell the progress of children in school. Studies were performed with standardized testing in the United Kingdoms in the 1990s that produced many of the same results we are seeing in the United States. “The researchers document the grand mismatch between policy intentions and the outcomes. Rather than erasing educational inequalities and raising the level of academic accomplishment as promised, the state-mandated assessment process served to obstruct learning, perpetuate and increase disparities” (Berlak 23). What followed the requirement of testing was the narrowing of curriculum, a decline in teacher and administrator value, and increased tension in student anxiety (Berlak 23). Why would the results be any different in the United States? All over the world testing has been tried and deemed unsuitable as a measure of student intelligence and school accountability.
    It is necessary to determine the progress of students throughout their school careers, but standardized testing is not the way to go. It was initiated for good purposes, but carried out in the wrong way. Let the people who know education and know students regulate where individuals belong. There are much more important types of intelligence than the shallow knowledge that standardized tests support.

    1. I think parts of my essay may be confusing...Which parts are confusing and how could I adapt them to make them more understandable?
    2. I tried to organize my essay in a logical manner that would make the most sense to readers...Did it make sense to you?
    3. I have a hard time with transition sentences...Were any parts of my essay not flowing well? What can I do to fix them?

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    Post  tonya.krienke on Sat Feb 25, 2012 12:56 am

    your questions:
    1. I think that their is nothing that is really confusing
    2. it was very well organized
    3. everything flowed well

    Good job:
    1. questions at the beginning
    2. comparing everything
    3. nice thesis

    work on:
    1. you citations they look like they are all from kohn but you are talking about other articles too
    2. adding block quotes?
    3. make a longer conclusion?

    my question:
    1. can you work on your citations? you have two quotes right after each other that are both from tanner the first one you can use tanner but on the seccond on you can use just the page numbers.

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    Teal Delys Assignment 4 Empty katherine jensen

    Post  katherine.jensen on Sat Feb 25, 2012 1:05 am

    1. If I were you I would eliminate some of the questions at the beginning of the essay. Also maybe it's because of the formatting on this website but it looked like you had a block quote and I dont think I say and quotation marks. Another suggestion would to maybe lengthen your conclusion paragraph a little, it seemed somewhat short.
    2. I think you organized it very logically, there aren't that many different options you can to organize it.
    3. Your transition sentences were great. Don't change them. They tie the two paragraphs together nicely.

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