Why This Standard Education Practice Is Harming Your Child

Education standards in the U.S. are widely debated by legislators, parents, and teachers alike.

Every child is unique and has a different learning style, but in recent decades, teaching children valuable information and skills has turned into “teaching to the test”—yet another example of government overreach.

The use of testing to determine educational progress in school is nationally standardized and is causing nothing but harm—these tests are overused, penalize both teachers and students, and lack the capability to help our children retain what they’ve learned.

Fairtest.org reports:

Measurement experts agree that no test is good enough to serve as the sole or primary basis for any of these important educational decisions. A nine-year study by the National Research Council (2011) concluded that the emphasis on testing yielded little learning progress but caused significant harm. NCLB demonstrated what happens when tests are misused. Negative consequences include narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, pushing students out of school, driving teachers out of the profession, and undermining student engagement and school climate. 

From the Standards of Learning (SOLs) beginning in elementary school, to the ACTs and SATs in high school, standardized testing has become the sole deciding factor in how well our children have learned, and how well teachers have taught them.

Although the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced the highly controversial No Child Left Behind policies in 2015, it has done nothing to rein in federal government control over our children’s education, nor change how or why such tests are administered.

For years, parents and teachers have sought to have these testing practices changed or abolished due to the negative impact on students’ learning and success.

And recent education standards such as Common Core only further emphasize the notion that every child should be learning at the same level—despite every child having unique circumstances and abilities.

Learning disabilities, language barriers, and family income levels which determine a child’s access to resources, are all factors that can jeopardize a student’s test scores.

And many children simply do not test well.  Standardized testing does not typically allow for improvement by studying or using tutors.  Every teacher presents material differently, and it has been shown that children experience high levels of stress and anxiety when confronted with material they may not be prepared for.

Standardized testing has also shaped curriculum development to the detriment of students and teachers.  When acceptable test scores become the only goal in education, curriculum is changed to cover only what will appear on national or state tests.

Teachers are forced to reduce time spent on subjects of interest to their particular class, or eliminate creative assignments for the sake of learning by rote only the material that will be tested on.

Fairtest.org reports:

In many districts, standardized exam results have become the single most important indicator of school performance. As a result, teachers and administrators feel enormous pressure to ensure that test scores consistently rise. Schools narrow and manipulate the curriculum to match the test, while teachers tend to cover only what is likely to be on the next exam. Methods of teaching conform to the multiple-choice format. Education increasingly resembles test prep. It is easy to see why this could happen in low-scoring districts. But some high-scoring schools and districts, striving to keep their top rank, also succumb.

The negative effects on students of these standardized tests are numerous and can have lasting consequences that can follow them throughout their school years.

And many of the best teachers who prefer to teach in fun, creative, and hands-on ways are penalized—some even losing their jobs—if they do not change their teaching styles to be more test-centric.

Fairtest.org continues:

High school graduation tests, used by 25 states, disproportionately penalize low-income and minority students, along with English language learners and the disabled. They do not promote the knowledge, skills and habits needed for success in college or skilled work. Tracking generally hurts slower students but does not help more advanced students. Too often, the assumption is that low-scoring students need low-level remediation rather than enrichment, challenge and support. Retention in grade, flunking or holding a student back, is almost always academically and emotionally harmful. It generally does not lead to sustained academic improvement, lowers student self-esteem, and leads to dropping out. Screening and readiness tests are frequently inaccurate and can lead to misdiagnosis of student learning needs.  

What is most startling is that the U.S. is the only developed nation that relies heavily on standardized testing as a marker of student and school performance.

Most other nations use concrete examples of student work to gauge performance and progress, such as written reports and essays, projects and presentations.

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Ironically, it has been found that students in other nations that do not rely on standardized testing actually score better on unit tests and exams.  They have learned specific information tailored to their class or school which is also reinforced with creative projects or in-class activities to help them enjoy learning and retain the information long-term.

With all of the negative consequences of standardized testing, what can parents do to emphasize a love of learning and decrease testing anxiety in their children?

Every parent has the right to speak with the administration of their child’s school if they have concerns about testing practices.

Most parents are unaware of the fact that they can opt-out of testing in most states.  Currently, eight states allow for parents to opt their child out of standardized testing by providing their reasons on a form acquired through the school.

Because even private and homeschool educated children are regulated by state and national testing requirements, they too can opt-out by requesting exemptions through the state.

Most importantly, no states have laws prohibiting opting out of standardized testing, so if you feel it is jeopardizing your child’s grades, interest in school, ability to learn, or emotional state, you have a right to be an advocate for your child.

What are your thoughts on standardized testing and how it affects students and teachers?  Has your child been negatively impacted by testing practices or procedures?

Leave us your thoughts in the comment section.