Sinclair: Less standardized testing means more learning


Courtesy of Getty Images

Traditional multiple choice testing methods that have been used for standardized tests like the ACT and SAT may not be the best way for students to learn.

Isaac Sinclair

As a recent high school graduate, I vividly remember taking a seemingly endless amount of tests in high school. There were enough tests to make anyone’s head spin clean off. It became a vicious and unrelenting cycle of quizzes and exams, week after week.

There is no question that U.S. schools are testing children more frequently than ever before. Ever since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2002, a bill that requires states to test students more, “annual state spending on standardized tests rose from $423 million to almost $1.1 billion in 2008.”

Students are now taking an average of 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten classes and 12th grade, which takes up to 20 to 25 hours each school year. This is an exorbitant amount of tests for students to be taking every year, and their teachers agree. Eighty-one percent of teachers believe that students are spending too much time taking tests.

If students are spending too much time taking tests, then they have to be spending a substantial amount of time preparing to take those tests. Students spend 14 days preparing for state exams and 12 days preparing for district exams. Spending this much time not only taking tests but preparing students specifically for them takes away from actual learning in the classrooms. Teachers have found themselves constantly reviewing and testing, with very little time left for constructive learning.

Standardized tests can also be extremely stressful for students. I know I’ve had nerves and worries going into many of the tests I’ve taken. Even if I’ve studied and know the material thoroughly, there is still a high level of stress that comes with testing. Testing has been shown to produce “gripping anxiety in even the brightest students and causes some young children to vomit or cry, or both.” Tests are inherently high-stake events, and while a mild level of anxiety can be a great motivator, schools do not need to keep their students constantly stressed with an unrelenting amount of tests.

An argument could be made that fewer tests would mean that there would be more importance and higher stakes put into the reduced amount of tests. While this is true, students would theoretically be more prepared and better understand the material. They would have had more quality class time and would focus more on learning the material rather than passing the next four or five exams. It would also reduce the amount of stress they feel throughout the school year, making them more relaxed on a day-to-day basis.

I believe we should reduce the amount of standardized tests that our nation is requiring our students to take. We put entirely too much time and importance into these tests. Students are constantly being battered and overwhelmed with test after test. This does not help a student learn, it just teaches them how to prepare for the next test. Less time is being put into teaching students, while more time is being put into testing them. This seems like an extremely backward way of educating our children.

I want to clarify that I am not against standardized tests. They aren’t perfect, there is no way of denying that. Standardized tests don’t promote creative answers and only look at a very small portion of a students’ intelligence.

That being said, they are the most objective and reliable way of testing students that we currently have. There are some alternatives, but none of them are more effective than standardized tests, and people are often resistant to change. Until we have a more effective form of assessing a student’s knowledge — which is an improvement we should continually be searching for — standardized tests are our best option. We just need fewer of them.