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Standardized Testing

As the new school year has just begun, many of the students of UCAS students are very excited to get it started. Despite the aura of eagerness going around, there’s a small part of school life soon to haunt students and teachers alike: standardized testing. Standardized testing has become a staple of American education, as children take them from as soon as kindergarten, all the way up to college. Giving a child a test can very well measure: how fast they can take in the information, how attentive they are while the speaker is talking, and how well they understand the source material. If it seems like such a good idea from our current perspective, why give it any attention? Because to fully understand something, you have to take a look at it from every perspective.

It’s no bold statement to say students dislike testing. There have been many cases where students have thrown up, been nauseous, or even break out in tears before a test. This happens so frequently, that the Ohio Department of Education has a specific section dedicated to the event wherein, “A student … vomits on his or her test booklet.”   When looking at such facts, it should be no surprise that many children decide to opt out of taking several variations of tests, with 25% of elementary, middle-school, and high-schoolers choosing to do so.

Most would see this as no surprise. After all, several students attending UCAS have to go through that day-to-day. What is baffling, though, is what teachers have to go through with testing. While teachers may have minor issues with testing like preparing it for the kids and monitoring them so they won’t cheat, they also have to deal with something worse at the end of the test: their paycheck.

In many states, the test scores coming from their students will give a teacher a certain grade. The grade the teacher gets will be what determines how much the teachers are paid. Meaning, if a student ranks higher than how they did at the beginning of the year, the teacher’s rating goes up; if the student does worse, so does that teacher’s rating. This may sound great in theory, but in practice, it definitely falls flat. One example may be that of  Luke Flynt, who explained, “…he had three kids whose predicted test scores were literally impossible… I had a sixth grader who earned a perfect score. Despite the fact she earned a perfect score, she counted negatively towards my evaluation.” Even though he spoke out, he had still received a lower score from the perfect score of his student.

With all this talk of poor testing conditions, teachers and students alike seem to be wondering the question on everyone’s mind: who benefits from this. It’s been found, that it ends up benefiting companies such as Pearson. As of 2016, Pearson had 40.4% of the curriculum market far above every other company. In fact, if you’ve never heard of them before, just take a look at an old textbook: there’s roughly a 40% chance it was produced by Pearson. After reading such statistics, it becomes very apparent Pearson values quantity, yet they, unfortunately, don’t seem to hold quality at the same high regard. There have been stories citing: concerns related to technical glitches, an incredibly buggy interface, absurd and uninformative test questions, and as ABC News 8 found, “that … Pearson … put {an} ad on Craigslist to find people to grade the exams.” The material put out by Pearson is not prepared correctly to be put onto the market, even so, they somehow get away with it along with a whole 40.4% of the market by producing textbooks and tests as frequently as possible.

Schools need a way to measure the level of their children’s success and growth throughout the school year, yet the way it’s currently being done is too flawed to use and get proper results with. The only legitimately justified challenge is being given to Pearson to try and pretend their methods work, or to find one that truly does. If not them, others could too. Other companies competing for the testing market are facing a very similar problem thus leading them to rethink which path to go down too. If one prevails and develops a system that can benefit every side of the spectrum, chances are that they will get great exposure from the media, as well as praise among students and teachers. Until then, it’ll be best if you listen to the source material, do the assigned homework, and test assured knowing that both UCAS and you are doing your best to get you an ‘A’.

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