Opting out of school tests: Readers respond

April 15, 2013

Lyndsey Layton’s terrific story this morning on growing resistance to standardized testing has generated hundreds of reader comments on the state of education and the role that such tests play. Some parents and students are opting out of tests, arguing, as Layton writes, that they “cause stress for young children, narrow classroom curricula, and, in the worst scenarios, have led to cheating because of the stakes involved – teacher compensation and job security.”

The comments have Republicans blaming Democrats and vice versa; teachers blaming students and parents; parents blaming teachers; educators and parents blasting the testing companies and the never-ending debate about whether public or private schools do a better job.

We’ll start with glenglish, who wrote, “What we need to use the test scores for is evaluating which schools need help in which areas and focus on what the students need to perform better, what the parents need to help their children learn and how to help the teachers at these schools get the job done. Very few teachers need to be fired; schools closed; parents blamed for their terrible upbringings; and or students made to feel like idiots (if any at all).”

Recursion said, “The problem with US public schools is an extension of the problem with the education in America, colleges included. Students go to secure a credential; it’s understood that very little of the information being taught will bear upon the student’s eventual career, so flouting the expectation of learning it is a cherished custom — not just with prep for standardized tests but generally as well. Teachers understand that their performance is gauged on a few select stats. Further up the chain, people understand their roles all too clearly as well. The debate over “creative thinking” versus learning facts and figures is irrelevant because sufficiently fine-grained instruction does not exist to implement any kind of intellectual program; it is sufficient to go through the motions, pass the test at the end of the week and forget it all in time for the next. Learning butters nobody’s bread, so why bother?”

Gregegger wrote, “There are several problems with standardized tests, the first being that when students do poorly, often the teachers get punished. How about we test like the top countries, where those tests determine whether a student goes on to the next grade? Let’s make students responsible for their part in learning. The second problem is that when schools control the testing, everyone tries to cheat. Testing should be done by contractors, online, and not proctored by school employees.”

Billisnice suggested, “Dump the test. We test these kids and still they need remedial classes in college. Let’s just start teaching remedial in high school and drop a few feel-good courses. 60% of first-year community college students need remedial math and English.”

spamsux1 asked, “How do you measure without tests? Do we wait until it’s too late for the kids and just measure dropout rates vs. on-time graduation rates?”

denver13 said, “Focus on knowledge, not standardized testing. Hell, what decent parent can’t tell if his child can read or do math. Seeing my grandchildren spending hours at home ‘drilling’ for tests makes me think the educational system is cranking out robots.”

Spartacus713 said, “And the sad truth is, there is nothing you can do to compensate for parents who are unhelpful in the education process. Nothing. These kids will, in many cases, not succeed in school, and there is nothing that can be done to adequately compensate for that.”

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