Part B: Teacher as Researcher

Standardized Tests

One critical issue that I personally faced during my school experience was standardized testing. Standardized tests are high weighted exams that are given to each student in the same grade to compare and contrast where they stand on a grading scale. These exams lead to many challenges and difficulties among students. With these issues being faces, it leads to the discussing about whether or not these exams should be continued in the education environment or not. As I research through four articles, it gives me a better understanding of the critical issue at hand.

The article, “The impact of no Child Left Behind on a student achievement,” acknowledges the shortcoming of standardized testing. This article states “The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act compelled states to design school accountability systems based on annual student assessments” (Dee and Jacob, 2011, p.1). The schools are more concerned about students doing well on a test, rather than the actual learning and comprehending of their students. These schools are more focused on achieving the state-level requirements, therefore they are teaching to the test. In extreme cases, teachers may be adjusting the students grade, to benefit the teachers overall rating. The tests are negatively affecting the student’s ability to learn and understand. Teachers are not taking time to meet students learning needs because they are too focused on their class achieving a certain grade average, which may effect their learning in the future.

This article brought to light another negative issue to me, that teachers are more focused on how the school is ranked rather then on the students learning. I do not think this is acceptable because the teacher’s main focus should be the learning and understanding of the students. I also do not think it is right to teach students to the test because it is a smaller spectrum of learning. I think students need an environment that allows them to question their learning, instead of being forced to learn a certain way. In my high school experience, we were taught to the achievement tests. Personally being taught to the test, I realized it was not beneficial to me. This article and my experiences make me believe that the curriculum should be taught on a broader range for students to succeed.

The article, “Heightened test anxiety among young children: Elementary School Students’ Anxious Responses to High-Stake Testing,” examines how students deal with standardized tests. The article states “we live in a test-conscious, test-giving culture in which the lives of people are in part determined by their test performance” (Segool, Carlson, Goforth, von der Embse, and Barterian, 2013, p. 1), explaining the idea that tests are controlling students education. It is also suggesting that tests are the only important aspect in your education. Anxiety among students is increasing because of standardized testing that leads to students getting overwhelmed and stressed. A study was shown in this article of school children in Grades 3 through 5. The students who wrote tests in the classroom had a lower anxiety level then students who wrote high-stake tests. This lowered motivation for young students and resulted in failure. These tests are only increasing anxiety and stress on students, rather then helping them learn.

After reading this article, I knew that test anxiety existed but not to that level. I never knew that young children would experience test anxiety to the same extent as older students. The fact that anxiety can start at a young age for school children over tests is awful. These students experience poor grades and lack in motivation. I do not understand how children who have to deal with test anxiety at a young age are going to deal with it when they are older because I believe things will just get worse. In my school experience, I only started to worry about tests in Grade 10. From starting to get bad habits in Grade 10, it had lead to many more in my future learning. My anxiety I had through tests was that I could not memorize what was important or sleep the night before the exam. Since I did not have much sleep or did not feel prepared, I went into these exams already stressed out. I think that these tests should not be used as grade for students and I believe that the article is leading to the idea that if we eliminate high-stake tests, it will eliminate test anxiety.

The article “Through Another’s Eyes,” talks about modifications and accommodations when it comes to standardized tests. Tests are carefully put together and examined with goals in mind by the writer. They also believe that the test users should follow certain instructions when it comes to writing these tests. Every student should write the same test with the same modifications, unless students have a learning difference. When it comes to modifications and accommodations for these specific students, they believe the test should not be changed at all but the environment should be altered. Some of the scenarios they give are that students may get more time, get to go in a comfortable quiet room and a distraction free environment. Other students, who have to write the test with no accommodations, have to be in a distracting environment, which may lead to stress among students by watching others struggle.

In my school experience, we had to write achievement tests where we would have to go in the gym with every student who is writing the same test. The gym would be set up in rows of desks, where we had to sit in alphabetical order. Each student would have the same exam booklets and pencils on their desks and would only be able to look at the test when instructed. These tests were timed and if you were not finished when time was up you still had to hand it in. Since I had a learning difference, I got certain accommodations that were purposed in the article. I got to go in a silent room and sit at a table rather then a desk. I was the only student in the room and I also received extra time on my test. The one thing that was the same as the other students was the exam. No matter what accommodations you may get, the exam was never changed, which also relates to the test in the article.

Another article I researched was “Standardized Testing in Kindergarten.” This article talks about a kindergarten teacher, Darla, at Harborview, who faces a dilemma with standardized tests. She was told by the district administration that she had to start giving her kindergarten class standardized tests because the children in grade 3 were not prepared enough when it came to writing their federally required test. This change was hard on Darla because she did not think it was right and did not know how it was going to impact her students. The first time she did the test, the children were uncomfortable and became stressed in the learning environment. Darla then wanted to end giving out these tests to her children but did not know how. She realized if she stopped giving out these tests then she could possible lose her job. She then went through the National Institution for Early Childhood Professional Development code, which stated, “Above all, we shall not harm children. We shall not participate in practices that are emotionally damaging, physically harmful, disrespectful, degrading, dangerous, exploitative, or intimidating to children” (Feeney and Freeman, 2014, p. 85). Darla believed that the test can harm children, therefore she got together with her colleges and did more research on the topic, and then she could bring the issue to the principle.

Reading this article surprised me because I would never think that it would be right to give a standardized test to a child in kindergarten. I believe these children are too young to be experienced with a high weighted exam and pressure. The teacher in the article stands out to me. She knows it is not right to place this on her students, so she decides to do something about it. I like how she does not ignore the issue, even though it might get her in trouble or even fired. She is looking out for the well being of her children and I believe that is something every teacher must do. When it comes to these exams, I think teachers need to acknowledge the effects it makes on students and find ways to resolve conflict.

From researching these articles, many more issues were brought to my attention. The idea that standardized tests were given out to such young grades surprised me. I did not think it was right to put all that pressure on a young child. Another issue was the ranking systems; that a school had to meet a certain requirement that each student had to meet. By doing this teachers focused more on the grades rather than the learning. To reflect on all the articles, it starts with the school meeting its needs. For a school to meet its needs, they need the success of a student. To get a student to succeed when it comes to standardized tests, the teacher has to teach to the test. Teaching to the test, narrows down the students learning. Students do not get the opportunity to question their learning or understand why it is important. Since students do not get to connect with their learning on their own personal level, then it leads to more issues. Students then would experience anxiety and stress, which could lead to failure. These students are also getting compared to one another. The students who received better grades would get acknowledged more, while the other students would continue to struggle. These tests did try to meet the needs of some students, but it separated them out from the others. All of these articles had something negative to say about standardized tests. It is more harm to students than teachers realize. Through my experiences and from researching these four articles, I believe that standardized testing is of no benefit and should be eliminated.

 

Reference Page

Dee, T. S. and Jacob, B. (2011), The impact of no Child Left Behind on student achievement. J. Pol. Anal. Manage., 30: 418–446. doi:10.1002/pam.20586

 

Feeney, S., & Freeman, N. K. (2014). Standardized testing in kindergarten. YC Young Children, 69(1), 84-88. Retrieved from https://login.libproxy.uregina.ca:8443/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1511123513?accountid=13480

 

Segool, N. K., Carlson, J. S., Goforth, A. N., von der Embse, N. and Barterian, J. A. (2013), HEIGHTENED TEST ANXIETY AMONG YOUNG CHILDREN: ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS’ ANXIOUS RESPONSES TO HIGH-STAKES TESTING. Psychol. Schs., 50: 489–499. doi:10.1002/pits.21689

 

Yara N. Farah. (2013). Through Another’s Eyes: Modification or Accommodation in Standardized Testing? Gifted Child Today, 36(3), 209-211. doi:10.1177/1076217513485584

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