Why Make Students Take Standardized Tests? An Ongoing Issue in a Broken Education System
Yesterday, State Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced that public school students will not be taking the standardized tests, usually held in the spring, until this fall. First, we want to applaud Superintendent Reykdal for breaking with the federal Department of Education, citing our need to support the mental health of Washington’s students and use our limited remaining in-person instructional hours this spring more effectively.
Our question is, why make students take them at all?
Teachers are always pushed to teach in a way that matches the various student learning styles, yet the state uses a single method on a single day of the year to measure student progress. Those tests are then used to determine students’ academic paths starting in 3rd grade and drive schools to eliminate other courses in pursuit of higher state test scores. The public school system is literally stifling the growth of the students it is charged with educating.
There are much better ways to assess student progress toward learning standards than single-day standardized tests. But, it starts with restructuring what we understand school to be.
OSPI should be leading the way toward revisioning our public education system, where schools become true institutions of education, enabling students to wield the most efficient and practical tools to analyze, communicate, synthesize, and evaluate their work and the world around them. It should be a place where students are comfortable grappling with complex issues, engaging in intellectual risk-taking, and persisting through challenges. Then schools can bring to life authentic performance-based assessments where students are graded, not on the answers they provide, but on the work of their hands, minds, and efforts to make positive change and impact the world.
If COVID showed us anything, it shows how archaic our public education is, put together with band-aid after band-aid as society changes, because the leaders of the system lacked imagination and courage.
Yes, it will require shifting how money is spent and will for sure cost additional dollars — which most should go toward intensive professional development for teachers and administrators — but our children are worth every penny. Right?
Superintendent Chris Reykdal, we are challenging you and every superintendent in this state to do better for our children and use this unique moment in time to develop a plan that will truly deliver a quality educational experience to every student in this state. And since TAF has been doing this work since 2008, we are happy to be a part of any team you put together and lend our experience and expertise toward this effort.
TAF is a nonprofit leader in providing equitable public education opportunities and environments to students and teachers of color across Washington State. Through three core programs: TAF Academies, School Transformation, and Network for EdWork, TAF address three problems that keep students of color away from STEM education, academic success, and careers: low expectations, a shortage of role models in STEM, and lack of access to quality, STEM-focused education. By partnering with public school districts, universities, businesses, and communities, TAF eliminates race-based disparity in academic achievement, promotes the highest level of student learning and teacher development, and empowers education leaders of color. Learn more at https://www.techaccess.org.