While kids kicked off their winter break, excited to finally take their minds off school and enjoy the company of loved ones, they still found themselves haunted by the stressful study-sessions and sleep deprived nights to come. Students across the country have now mournfully returned to school, but what immediately awaits them is the burden of overwhelming pressure as the despised midterm exams approach.
Substantially launched into American education by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, standardized testing is portrayed as the ultimate evaluation of students’ acquired knowledge over the semester, as a well as a valuable opportunity for them to improve their grades. Conveniently, this practice also determines school funding.
In reality, this “convenient” system of evaluation not only single-handedly ravages students’ academic lives, but moreover afflicts their physical and mental health.
Standardized tests, rather than benefitting the rising generation, tend to sabotage students’ achievements made over the course of the whole semester, consequently limiting their full potential in life due to plummeting GPAs. For instance, even Montgomery County revealed alarming test results in the past year despite being home to some of the best schools in the country. With a majority of high school students flunking their algebra and geometry finals, more people are debating the ethicality of the standardized testing tradition.
Instead of exposing students to real world issues and situations, schools’ curriculum often simply consists of drills on ways to pass the exam, in order for them to acquire more government funds. Marnie Barron, a third grade teacher in the District of Columbia, agreed that “standardized testing is not an accurate sample of the children’s knowledge.” Even the multiple choice format is misleading kids away from real life situations, since young test-takers are raised to believe that there are always right and wrong answers.
Tammi West, a recent Johns Hopkins University graduate, also recognizes that final exams essentially harm students, and has a firm stance on the subject. “Sadly, the culture of standardized testing has made it difficult on teachers, students and parents,” she said. West brings up a compelling claim that “students tend to study by tediously memorizing and retaining information only long enough to achieve acceptable grades; after the test, they generally forget the content.” This creates a false sense of understanding the curriculum and therefore letting the progress of the school system fall through the cracks.
Withal, testing has been proven to cause severe anxiety, stress, and even depression among students. “I got used to losing nights after nights of sleep trying to study as exam weeks came around,” junior Jesse Hohner of School Without Walls High School recalled. “As if being sleep-deprived wasn’t stressful enough, I began feeling depressed just in time for tests, which obviously wrecked my performance.”
Sophomore Isabel Mota of Woodrow Wilson High School reasoned that “exams don’t accurately assess how intelligent a student is. Each and every person has varied learning abilities, and these tests need to be modified and personalized to fit students’ needs.”
Fortunately, there are alternative schooling approaches such as portfolio-based-assessment learning and Montessori techniques, which both bypass putting students under traumatic examinations. Yet for the time being, as it would take a long time to reform the dubious public school teaching methods, students will be forced to keep taking tests — and have their intellect determined by scraps of paper.
Opinions piece by Max Rykov, MoCo Student staff writer