Education in America often seems to cycle in and out of progression.
However, taking a closer glimpse into what our public education system has become, we can easily conclude that progression is not necessarily what we might be striving for after all. It seems that we have shifted the overall focus of free thinking, and individual development, to a more narrow-minded form of teaching.
The use of standardized testing in our public education system seems to be the growing cancer that holds many students back from potentially staying on track with what was once their original education path. The issue stands that our teachers emphasize their curriculum goals towards higher scores in major standardized tests. This leads to better funding for their schools, which in turn leads to the concept of teaching how to test, instead of teaching to educate and expand the minds of our future generations.
These tests kill incentive to think outside the box due to the fact that we are forced to think in a “standard” rational manner. By letting the system slowly infiltrate these demonic entities we consider “formal exams”, we are slowly climbing down the ladder of leadership in educational development.
In 2010, the Washington Post published a study which showed that the implementation of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, has costs us as a nation to go from 18th place in educational standards in 2002, to 31st in 2009. Keeping people accountable to education is not the negative aspect; it’s the manner in which we are doing so.
Standardized tests once focused on basic mathematical, reading and writing skills. It sounds quite harmless when you put it in a simple statement. However, the issues that arise with these exams begin to expand in content and relevance to individual student progress. We went from using standardized testing as a means to identify student’s weakest points and their levels of progress, to using these exams as a tool of political dominance over the school districts across the nation. Letting these exams decide the level of school funding, as well as the fiscal bonuses educators could potentially receive, has created a perpetual cycle of distinguishing and keeping the rich districts “A” schools, while lower income districts remain “D” and “F” schools.
This can be seen in many ways. Take a look at the infrastructural differences between these schools, as well as the types of materials, and the overall educational environments. “A” schools stay current in technological upgrades and more attentive faculty/staff, while lower income schools stay stagnant due to a lack of funding and acknowledgement for their schools.
What needs to be kept in mind is that the potential for young learners enrolled in poorly graded schools is the same as those enrolled in highly graded schools. However, the focus is no longer the progression of academia and innovation. It is simply just a constant reinforcement to learn the “ways of the test”.
These are just a few of the vast amounts of issues that arise with using standardize testing in public schooling for grades K-12. These identity-forming ages are when young students should be encouraged to think independently and expand their minds freely. They should be encouraged to find a vocational path and run with it. They should not be grouped in cohorts of educational levels–the new form of segregation. Instead of moving forward, we keep backtracking by teaching to the test.