This article is in response to an article in the Washington Post entitled "Your kid is being bullied at school - and not in the way you think." The basic premise is that your kid is being bullied into taking standardized tests, because teachers shouldn't be judged by standardized tests. (First, I will admit to being irked by the use of the word "bully" here. If your kid is being bullied, that implies he is being hurt. Your child is not being hurt by standardized tests. If anything, he's being hurt by sub-standard teaching) People have complained about tests since the beginning of tests themselves. Math test hard? Complain about the math test. Writing essays for English make you stressed? Complain about English. Can't remember how to translate a verb? Complain about foreign language. And when someone doesn't pass a test - OF COURSE, it is the test's fault. Note that we never hear complaining by people who are successful at tests.
I've taken, made up, and given tests to just about every level of student. I used to date a guy who taught at a different college than the one I teach at. He didn't get any "course pack" (with pre-made tests) with his textbook, so he used to make all his own tests. They were these essay questions, that sometimes I couldn't figure out what he was asking for. He asked odd, rambling questions, that were difficult to figure out. He asked true and false questions that could have been true or false, depending on how much you knew about biology. He asked fill in the blank questions that he later couldn't answer himself.
His students' answers were terrible. The answers proved the kids couldn't read or write. I used to help him grade, and I would take a stack, and he would take a stack. At first I would laugh about some of the terrible answers. I would be shocked at the poor spelling and grammar. I would be confused. I would be amazed at how the answers showed how little his students knew about anything, much less biology. By the end, I would be in despair and depressed.
At the end, the stack I graded were all F's. The students's answers were wrong. There was so much red, I was horrified.The stack he graded? Everyone got a B or A. He just felt bad for them, and wanted to take into account that they were having a rough day, didn't write well, couldn't spell, or just put the wrong word "by mistake" (because he knew what they meant).
I get it that people see the bad in standardized tests, because they want to focus on the bad. I believe, however, that standardized tests give us real information, and diagnose a huge problem in education these days. Instead of believing students or teachers are the problem, I think it's the fault of people who complain about tests. We are being given the opportunity to learn where the system is broken, and told how to fix it.
If teachers spent half the time learning to collaborate and make the education of their students better, instead of wasting energy and taking the easy way out and giving up, they could fix entire districts. We did it in the one I taught at. Not one of the people in my department EVER said, "This test isn't fair! Let's write about how bad this is!" We said, "If we work together to teach the best, do the best labs, give the best assignments, tutor kids, and prepare them, we'll get more to pass!" And voila - Our passing rates shot up by over 50%. We went from a 38% passing rate, to a 89% passing rate.
If people - students, parents, admin, teachers, and professors - quit complaining, and worked at passing, we couldn't stop the leaps and bounds our educational quality would take. But we all know that won't happen, because some people refuse to take tests as what they are - indications that something has or hasn't been learned. Test bashing is easier than admitting failure. Test bashing is here to stay. And with the advent of social media, people who want to believe testing is all bad, find the verification that is invented to justify their feelings. Just like those who believe vaccines are evil - only believe what verifies "what you already know." I find test bashing to be such a waste of precious energy on the part of students, teacher, parents, and the schools.