Putting tests to the test

Tests such as these have been a common and unchanging facet of American education. That's undoubtedly why test scores are low and stagnant. (Photograph by Niko LaBarbera)

Tests such as these have been a common and unchanging facet of American education. That’s undoubtedly why test scores are low and stagnant. (Photograph by Niko LaBarbera)

There are many words that send a chill down the spine of students. There is a very predominant one: testing. That word alone should be more than enough to generate stress, sweat and desperation.

For years testing has been a major part of education worldwide. In America, the testing format has remained unchanged for decades with students typically given a standard list of questions to answer. Failure to pass the test by not answering a minimum amount of them correctly is rarely, if ever, tolerated.

The most recent study taken by Programme for International Student Assessment in 2012 revealed that of the 65 countries tested, the United States did poorly in the areas of reading, mathematics and science slipping from higher ranks from the previous assessment in 2006.

Test scores across the country continue to stagnate and drop. It shows no signs of stopping.  What could be causing this? Teachers have been blamed for not doing their jobs. Students have been blamed for not studying hard enough.

Two teachers at Saddleback College believe that the fingers should be pointed at another set of culprits: the tests themselves.

Timothy Braatz, a history professor at Saddleback College, dislikes  tests so much he doesn’t give them opting instead for written assignments. He views them as nothing more than an easier route for teacher to quickly generate grades. It also is used as a means to deal with large numbers as opposed to…….

Christina Hinkle, a history professor current helping at the tutoring center, shares Braatz’s frustration with tests. She too doesn’t give tests, and prefers alternative methods. She believes that tests, especially standardized ones, prohibits genuine mental growth.

As a student myself, I find nothing to argue against because they have pointed to the elephant in the room. Testing in America is for the most part not education; it’s automation. It treats students the same no matter what. Students  are being treated as a collective mind rather than individuals.

Expecting all students to understand the same facts and treat them in the same fashion is unrealistic. We should know better by now that’s not how the mind works, and that every person is different in how they take in certain facts.

This is undoubtedly a big reason why testing scores are so poor. In treating people as piggy banks rather than human beings, the education system is merely getting people to repeat facts rather than improving their critical thinking skills or expanding their knowledge.

In lieu of continually deteriorating test grades, it’s time to think outside the box. The way testing in America is handled is an outdated and broken system. It must be questioned and remedied if we’re to start seeing better results in education.

The first step is to start treating students as individuals. It’s not a full solution but it’s an amazing good step in the right direction. The longer educators in this society neglect to take that step, the more the rest of us will pay for it.