Gauging Success: Why Standardized Tests Miss the Mark

I am opposed to standardized testing for a number of reasons. It does not give an accurate picture of a student’s ability or progress. Some children, mine included, do not test well. For some reason when my youngest son knows there is a time limit on a test, he freezes. This is a talented and gifted child, yet if you were to look at his standardized tests score—you would think otherwise.


My youngest struggled with reading after I pulled him from a charter school. At that school, they grouped 1st grade students by reading ability. In his group—he was forced to read out loud. This was something that he was very uncomfortable with and when he struggled, the teacher allowed the other kids to make fun of my child. Now, entering the 8th grade, this still haunts him and I believe this is why he does not test well.


Standardize tests are supposed to show you where your child is academically as compared to other children of the same age and grade. But what happens to kids who have test anxiety? Their scores are low. Low scores can keep these kids from getting into gifted programs like the Duke Talent Identification Program.


So how should we judge a child’s progress? Use a record book system like 4-H. The record book tracks a child’s accomplishments, community service, awards, and projects over the course of five years. Why not apply this to the school system? The record book provides a much better picture of the child’s true ability. Although it would be difficult to use on a national level, maybe we need to get away from having a plethora of standardized tests that cannot be compared to each other and instead go to a record book format for tracking student progress. The record book should have a standard format, so it can be used by teachers even if a child changes schools.


Standardized tests just do not work. Public schools and the No Child Left Behind Act  created a “teach the test” atmosphere at most public schools. Teachers and administrators have been caught changing grades and some have been brought up on criminal charges. This is insane. What is needed is a way to accurately judge a student’s ability without having such high stakes.


This brings me to the topic at hand. If I ignore the standardized testing scores for my son, how do I judge where he is academically? He shows me in other ways how well he is doing. My two youngest children are very active in competitive shooting. One of the events, YHEC (Youth Hunter Educational Challenge), demands that the competitors take a written test as well as show mastery in wildlife identification, safety trail, compass and map skills, and mastery in shotgun, .22 rifle, archery, and muzzleloader.


My youngest, age 13, took 3rd place on the written test. Out of 190 kids in his division, he had the 3rd highest score. That is how I measure his success. He studied, he practiced and he performed well.


My next youngest is 18 and will be heading off to college in the fall. His goal is to become a biology specialist for Arkansas Game and Fish. He has plans to get a master’s degree in biology and possibly a doctorate. That is how I measure his success.


It is time to do away with a system that is not working. I would rather have my kids put together a record book highlighting their accomplishments over the last 5 years than have them subjected to standardized tests. Especially since the test results are arbitrary at best and they do not give you a good idea of where your child is academically—unless you have one of those rare kids who test really well.



Posted on 10 June '13 by , under Standardized testing. No Comments.

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