I’m not saying I hate standardized tests, but I’m not not saying it.
As a student, I struggled to motivate myself or put forth effort on standardized tests. I was the type of student who would put in more effort depending on how much or little I cared about the teacher administering the test. I just didn’t care. I didn’t see the purpose to it. However, I also don’t remember any of my teachers telling me the purpose of standardized tests, which may have helped. This (not not said) dislike of standardized tests runs deep.
As a teacher, I struggle to motivate my students. It is not a good measurement of their skills. It is certainly, doubtlessly, not a measure of their character or their ability to grow and learn. I don’t believe in the purpose of standardized tests. I don’t believe it will make my students, or my classroom, better. Of course, as a teacher, I have to give them, so I do, but I struggle to get my kids to buy into the idea of standardized tests because I don’t buy into them.
For many students, particularly in a generation that is increasingly anxious and self-critical, this test is yet another obstacle in between them and a normal level of confidence in a certain subject. It is a beast of a test. It often takes the entire class period, which is 75 minutes long, and sometimes longer for certain students. It is a difficult test, one that I’m not even confident I would necessarily pass myself. The wording of questions is tricky, manipulative. The texts they read are dense and uninteresting. The expectations are high. For students with anxiety, this test is basically a bomb dropped in their lap.
For many more students, it is a boring test that their teacher made them do and that they don’t care about. So why try? They don’t have a reason to do well. (This is where my theoretical motivational skills would come in.) They understand it doesn’t affect their grades. Should I tell my students that some standardized tests affect the amount of funding that goes into their school? That seems like an awful pressure to put on 7th graders.
Now consider my students. My students come from impoverished homes, difficult personal lives, and a serious academic disadvantage. Within the same year, I teach them the basic structure of a sentence (and sometimes what a noun is) and I attempt to teach them developed analytical skills. These are kids who were not read to when they were younger, who often do not have food at home, who do not often speak English as their first language. It is not fair to use the same test to measure their skills and their level of understanding in a topic that you use to measure the skills of a student who has every possible advantage. It is not fair to use a test that assume everyone has begun at the same point of the race. It is not fair.
Today is a day that I have to administer a standardized test. I’ll encourage my students to do their best, even if I don’t particularly agree with it, and I’ll make sure that the rest of the week is fun for them. After today, they’ll have earned it.