Should state education tests really be so important?

Raising my own kids, I realized that what you scored on the state tests makes no difference whatsoever.

We are nine weeks away from the end of the school year and I have never seen so many stressed out kids! As our expectations grow for them, they feel the pressure and react. My Algebra Readiness classes are doing Algebra at the most basic level. It's simple stuff, but they know these lessons are the prelude of the song they'll be singing in math next year. They await Algebra, dreading it because so many have before them, and knowing that it is a requirement for a High School diploma. Questions about their competence, their worth are in their faces: "Will I make it? Will I pass? Will I graduate from High School?" So many worries!

I am pressured also. State testing hits my school in April and every day I am encouraged to prepare my students. I used to give a Power Point presentation about the importance of test scores and how they are the one measure that will shape your high school career. I don't do that anymore. Raising my own kids, I realized that what you scored on the state tests makes no difference whatsoever. Grades matter. Work ethic matters. Perseverance matters. Resilience matters.

My daughter and I were sitting at the table at home talking about her high school friends. She told me about a guy she had grown up with who had started drinking when he was younger, a freshman in high school. I asked her what he was doing now and she said he was still in college, and still drinking. She sounded like she didn't hold much hope for his future. I asked her what was wrong with him. She said she didn't know, couldn't quite figure it out, but four years after leaving high school, he was pretty much still the same. She asked me, "What makes a kid evolve away from that negative stuff we all thought was so cool in high school?"

I don't think it's a student's scores on the state test.

Simplistic, huh? State tests have their use. I don't think students should have to take them every year and I don't think so much emphasis should be placed on them. They are a moment in time, a one-shot deal, a day in the life. Every student approaches them differently. I've seen students who seriously approach the tests and those who have made cute patterns when bubbling answers.

So this March, when your kids come home from school overwhelmed with test prep activities, take it easy on them. Make sure they know you'll love them just as much regardless of how they score. Tell them to take their time, do their best and not to worry about it. And remember, it's those other lessons learned, whose only tests are quality of life, that matter most.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mark Paxson March 15, 2012 at 01:56 AM
All I have to do is read the title of this post and answer, emphatically, "no"!!!! I believe standardized tests and the emphasis on them is one of the great evils of the modern education system.
M.Legison March 17, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Should we drop the LSAT and MCAT tests too?
Mark Paxson March 17, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Brilliant comparison, M. Legison ... the two or three standardized tests our kids take every school year versus one test somebody who is interested in an advanced degree program has to take to apply to said program.
Lisa Delfino March 17, 2012 at 04:26 PM
I was going to say, if M. Legison could explain the relavence of the question, I'd be happy to address it.
M.Legison March 18, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Standardized tests can uncover deficiencies in learning at all levels. Should there not be standards for learning in K-12 schools, or should we leave the teachers to their own devices? Maybe we were fortunate when our boys were in school, but the whole school seemed to take the tests seriously and adjust instructional topics as needed, at least that was our observation. Graduate school tests do not predict professional success well but they do predict grades fairly well and do screen and show areas of strength and deficiency.
Lisa Delfino March 18, 2012 at 06:52 PM
I never indicated standards to be a bad thing. The push toward Commom Core standards across American education is positive. The question remains; do we want student's instruction limited to what is on the test? Do we want students to stress out about the outcomes? So much so, that they experience physical symptoms of test anxiety? Or, would we prefer a more balanced approach where students are taught to think and reason and where more than one measure is used to determine how effective teaching and learning are? One can not compare graduate level entrance exams to K-12 standardized testing. Nor can one compare Graduate students, who are adults, to K-12 students who are children. For children, the predictor for success in life is grades, not state test scores. Look up the research !
Rex Tugwell March 18, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Equating tests for admission to graduate school to K-12 testing is disingenuous and simplistic. Those that take postgraduate examinations can easily be assumed to be highly motivated to do their absolute best. Children may be less motivated to do well, as they really don't have any skin in the game. It is also important to consider that as testing has become more pervasive and higher stakes, the level of pressure on schools and kids becomes untenable. As the focus of the curriculum becomes more narrow, the focus on what's good for kids is distilled down to the most basic of skills. Tests in science in history become exercises in Trivial Pursuit. The writing tests in 4th and 7th grade are mass graded by temporary workers where the focus is on speed, not on qualitative review. Reading comprehension tests are dull and discourage kids from persevering. The entire enterprise presupposes that classroom teachers have no idea how to evaluate student progress. Many in the general public wrongly believe that teachers inflate grades and don't know what they're doing. The facts say otherwise. No other factor, outside of grades and rigor of course selection, influences college acceptance. What I really don't understand is that if the overriding belief is that government doesn't perform well, why would people believe that student testing is the area that government excels. Individual teachers work hard and do a great job, the test informs them of nothing.
M.Legison March 18, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Agree with more emphasis on logic and reasoning, Lisa. That has been a deficit in our public system for some time. Thank you for the respectful response.
Mark Paxson March 18, 2012 at 09:53 PM
M. ... I don't think anybody could argue rationally that all standardized tests should be eliminated. The problem is with the overwhelming nature of their existence in our public K-12 education system now. Is it really necessary for kids to have to take multiple standardized tests each and over year. One test for this program, another test for this purpose, and a third for a wholly different reason. And, as they get older, they start taking the PSAT, the ACT, the SAT, etc. The difference between those and the LSAT and MCAT is that those two tests are taken by adults choosing to pursue an advanced degree. All of the standardized tests in K-12 are forced on our kids, the parents, the teachers, and everybody else. They have become so prevalent and so critical to schools and teachers that they can't help but to teach to those tests. Yes, I want teachers teaching a core curriculum, but I also want them to have some freedom to teach it differently, to teach to different strengths and different ideas. I'm a huge believer in alternatives and trying to identify and teach to people's creative side. That doesn't happen much any more. One final reality -- some very smart and knowledgeable people are not good test-takers. Others are mediocre but good at tests. Standardized testing is not the panacea of measuring performance across the spectrum of people involved in our education system. And, ultimately, standardized tests
Rex Tugwell March 18, 2012 at 10:48 PM
CA Ed Code 60615. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent’s or guardian’s written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted. http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=60001-61000&file=60604-60618 There is no penalty for exercising your right to prevent testing abuse.
Mark Paxson March 18, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Rex ... I appreciate the cite, but which assessments is it referring to? Does it include the assessments mandated by No Child Left Behind? Does it include the standardized tests required to graduate from high school? Does it include the other standardized tests kids take throughout their high school education for other purposes? Later, when I'm not in the middle of making dinner, I'll take a look at the cite.
Rex Tugwell March 19, 2012 at 12:34 AM
It bestows upon parents/legal guardians the right to excuse their child from all aspects of the STAR program. It does not apply to the CAHSEE. Although if a 10th grader cannot pass the CAHSEE there must be other issues. The yearly cost for administering and remediating for the CAHSEE is upwards of $50,000,000. That is not a typo. Over 80% of 10th graders pass the first time in English/Language Arts and in math the pass rate is about the same. Those that do not pass in the 10th grade continue to have difficulty, that is the primary cause of the cost of remediation. Each year the percentage of 10th graders passing on the first try increases. NCLB mandates fewer tests than California administrates, other than the CAHSEE, the testing regime predates the implementation of NCLB. Of particular interest is that NCLB does not mandate testing commence until 3rd grade. Legislative attempts to do away with California's 2nd grade test are met with rigorous opposition primarily from charter school proponents. Charter school operators are not necessarily in agreement with their political backers on that issue.
M.Legison March 19, 2012 at 04:48 AM
No argument there, Mark. Thanks for clarifying. Keyword from Lisa: Reasoning. I think that is one of the biggest deficits in public education today. I saw it in our boys too. They certainly had all the facts, but pose an alternate scenario with the same variables and they were clueless.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something