Tests do little to evaluate
Posted October 1, 2009 at 9:15 pm in Opinion
The US educational system has long relied on standardized testing as an academic, economic and social barometer. From the yearly pageantry of the SAT to the slightly obscure and more Midwestern ACT, the tradition of tests with acronyms of dubious origin has been a mainstay of elementary, high school and post-grad culture for decades. The system has garnered its fair share of criticism in the past decade, however, as standardized tests have come into more prominence.
Critics point to many drawbacks.; the tests narrow school curricula to only what is tested. The questions are biased in favor of the demographic group that creates the questions â€” statistically, white and middle class. Tests evaluate students without regard to learning difficulties, and only focus on a small portion of what could be termed a studentâ€™s general aptitude.
The vocal anti-standardized testing constituency hoped that President Barack Obama would help shelve the archaic testing formula in his recent agenda to improve education. Specifically, many hoped Obama would start the process of undoing former President George W. Bushâ€™s well-intentioned but woefully inept No Child Left Behind Act, which established a system that linked school funding to net improvement in standardized scores.
The act has many flaws, despite its Lifetime Movie Network-like name. Tests administered under the act fail to accommodate students with disabilities or learning difficulties, and donâ€™t provide resources for students for whom English is a second language. Corrective policies enforced in lower-performing schools are counterproductive â€” as programs that need more help are the ones that produce lower test scores, and thus are denied much-needed funds.
Unexpectedly, Obama reinforced the act by calling for more states to use standardized testing as a measure for evaluating both teachers and students.
Standardized testing has shown itself to be a flawed practice. By utilizing it not only as an evaluation of a studentâ€™s intelligence, but also a determination of a schoolâ€™s financial future, the United States is encouraging a vicious cycle.
It is up to Obama to reverse a history of bad decisions made in the educational spectrum. Will he accept the challenge?
Lucy Mueller is a junior majoring in cinema-television production, and is the Daily Trojanâ€™s editorial director.