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Does Standardized Testing Hurt Students

Essay by review  •  July 13, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,980 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,506 Views

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“A hopeful America is one in which not one child is left behind.” This quote from President George W. Bush at a recent news conference represents the current philosophy of our government on education. In 2001 President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The new law is an updated version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which was signed into law in 1965. Since then standardized testing has been a part of our school system in one form or another, yet there is little evidence that these tests have improved children’s learning through the years.

The premise of the No Child Left Behind Act is that every child has an equal opportunity for a good education. For this goal to be met, each state must bring 95-100% of children up to grade level in the core curriculum areas of reading, math and science by the year 2014. The goal is measured only by the scores students receive on the standardized tests adopted by their states. In addition schools that do not show adequate yearly progress on standardized tests toward this goal face sanctions such as loss of funding. In cases where schools do not meet adequate progress for two or more years the government can come in and fire or reassign the teachers and administrators. These strict guidelines have changed the spotlight from student learning to student testing. Although it is important for schools to be held accountable, when the focus is only on standardized tests to measure that accountability it takes away much of the creativity in the classroom.

According to Nancy Buell a forth grade teacher in Massachusetts, professional development meetings and trainings often focus on how teachers can improve scores on their state tests instead of asking questions like how to encourage a love for learning and critical thinking skills(NEA Today, 2001). Teachers must then ask themselves вЂ" in the face of standardized testing are they doing all that they can to not only ensure academic success, but also nurture skills such as critical thinking and social skills that their students will need in real world environments.

In order for students to do well on the standardized tests teachers are focusing their energy and resources only on the test subjects. Teachers in schools across the country are reporting a cutback on the amount of time they are spending on non-test subjects. Subjects such as social studies, art, music and physical education are being eliminated from many schools in order to make room for more instructional time in the

Many schools are eliminating recess in order to

have more instructional time for core curriculums.

core areas of reading, math and science (Chapman, 2007). Many schools are even cutting recess out of their schedules to increase this instructional time. The loss of these important subjects means that the children coming out of our schools are not as well rounded as they could be. Social skills, cooperation, appreciation for art and music, and a love for learning all contribute as much as reading and math facts to create a whole child approach to education.

Because there is such a focus on standardized testing, creativity on the part of teachers and students is being taken out of the classroom. Teachers have to rely on curriculums that are built around the tests instead of around children’s interests. Teachers are encouraged to teach in a skill-drill format in which students are just learning the answers to questions, but not the concepts behind the answers. This is inappropriate, especially for younger students, and does not promote crucial learning skills such as questioning, testing theories, or looking at processes that will help develop understanding of concepts.

If teachers were allowed to teach reading and math skills around subjects that children were interested in, their students would be able to learn these skills in a more natural way that would allow for not only these skills to be developed, but also critical thinking skills. By creating a learning environment that promotes cooperation on projects that include reading and writing about science experiments or social studies projects teachers may be able to include all subjects within one project.

For example, a teacher may set up his or her classroom in a manner in which students in small groups can explore some of the things that may have been found on a wagon train. The project may include reading about the Oregon Trail at one station, exploring items that may have been found in a typical wagon at a second station, and a third station may ask students to come up with ideas of what dangers travelers may have faced. Finally the project could be wrapped up by having the students write a short play to be acted out in which they show what the group learned from their exploration. In this project teachers are able to incorporate reading, writing, and history into one interactive learning project that promotes social cooperation and being able to look at others ideas. With some creativity on the teacher’s part, he or she could even include a math lesson using the distances traveled by the settlers.

“Because of high-stakes tests and the pressure

that surrounds them, children are no longer engaged

in enriching experiences for the pure joy of learningвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Solley, 2007)

B. Solley wrote that “attaching high stakes to tests вЂ?obstructs students' path to becoming lifelong, self-directed learners and alienates students from their own learning experiences in school.”(Solley,2007) Because projects like the Oregon Trail project described above are not being used in classrooms students are not able to show creativity and understanding about the subjects they are learning. Learning should scaffold on what children already know. The process of building on what students have learned previously will help children feel successful and grow in their love for learning. By making the Oregon Trail project a group project, student’s not only build on what they already

know, they are able to learn from other student’s knowledge base also.

Although standardized testing is the way that the NCLB is measuring student, teacher, and school success it does not give a clear picture of what children know or are capable of learning. These tests may have a purpose in checking student progress, but the emphasis on the tests as the only standard for checking progress only reports learning outcomes and not the process by which students get to the answer. Knowing an answer



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