Testing Time – Is it necessary?
By TLB Contributing Author: Lorana Hoopes
It’s that time of year again when the students are gearing up for the rounds of state tests we put them through. The question is though, is it necessary?
I teach High school English and middle school math. Let me tell you what I see.
First, I see a lot of anxiety. Kids stress about these tests, and why shouldn’t they? We tell them if they do not pass, then they cannot graduate. We hammer in the importance of these tests from the time they are in third grade. These students believe their whole future resides on these test, and yet most colleges are still relying on the SATs for entrances and internships or apprentices generally don’t care if you didn’t pass the state test if you can do your job.
I don’t know about all states, but when a state test was instituted in Texas decades ago, it was more of a basic skills test. They wanted to know we could read, write, and do math well enough to get a job and not get suckered out of money. The test had merit and very few people failed it. Now, we seem to be doing the exact opposite. The test has little merit and many people fail it.
Even worse, it drives what classes students must take to graduate high school.
As I teach math, the kids ask me nearly every day, “When are we going to use this?” And the sad part is that they won’t. Not unless they want to become scientists or architects. I mean think about it. How many times have you used adding and multiplying of exponents since you graduated? No? How about figuring out the fraction of a repeating decimal? Probably not.
So why, if these classes aren’t going to help our students in the future are we requiring them to graduate? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to have these students take a business math course where they could calculate APR and understand interest rates, so that they don’t pile up a mountain of debt and must file bankruptcy?
Remember a few years ago, when we had to bail out all the lending companies because people couldn’t pay their mortgages? Perhaps, if we taught business math as a required math and showed the dangers of credit cards and borrowing beyond your means, we could keep that from happening again. Maybe we could even teach them how to budget and not spend all their paycheck the moment they get it. I know for most people it is obsolete, but wouldn’t it also be nice to show them how to balance a checkbook?
Or how about a tax filing class? We could teach students how to file taxes so they understand what will happen when they get in the real world. We could show them exemptions and how to save the most money?
I’ve long been a proponent of tracks, even though I know some people hate them. Students should be able to choose a path of what they think they want and take classes that have meaning to them. It doesn’t mean they can never change, though it might mean that a student who starts on an apprentice path and then chooses they want to go to college may have to make up more classes, but it would mean that students could take classes that interest them and will be useful in the job they choose.
With our high dropout rate and general checking out of students in high school, I think it is high time that we look at a change that will help keep students engaged and graduating because after all, that is our real goal, isn’t it?
So how would these tests benefit students if this happened? Well, the truth is they wouldn’t, but they don’t now either. These tests could be changed to be a basic exit test like when they first started, which would help schools know that a student they are graduating will have a shot of surviving in the real world and not falling into government assistance (not that it’s bad when there is a need for it). And for those students going to college, they wouldn’t need to take this test as the SAT (required) will suffice.
What would happen if we did this? If we stopped testing this students as a graduation requirement? Well, for one thing it would cut down on the cost. In my state, we can’t even fully fund education, and I’m sure it is a problem in other states. If we stopped testing every year, we could save millions of dollars. We could fund education. We could reduce class sizes. We could hire quality teaching assistants, and we could pay teachers what they’re worth. We could also adjust our graduation requirements to allow students to take classes that will help them in their career instead of classes they will never use again after high school. Most importantly, we can protect the psyche of our kids.
I’ve read articles about testing booklets coming with instructions on how to handle them if they are covered in vomit. Evidently so many children were throwing up over test anxiety they had to add those. That should tell us something. I have seen personally a kid crawl under a desk and many more erupt in tears. Why are we doing this to our children? Does this one test need to have so much weight and dictate so much of their life? Isn’t allowing them to be kids a little more important?
And from a teacher’s perspective, we spend valuable education time practicing for these tests and yet we never see the results until the next year, so they do nothing to help our teaching. I would prefer the extra time to allow students to do an engaging project or review a challenging concept than spend it reviewing for a test that will have no bearing on the rest of their life after high school.
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About the Author/Host: Lorana Hoopes is a The Liberty Beacon Project (TLB) Contributing Author and TLBTV Host of “Lorana Writes the World”. Lorana brings a solid background in education, teaching our children, as a published author, and many other talents into this project.
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