Why Standardized Testing is Stupid

“I asked the district at that point to give me the closest thing they could legally to the FCAT reading and math test, and I took it. That test labelled me as a poor reader, and I have a couple of masters’ degrees, and I’ve been re-elected four times and I teach 39 graduate courses at six universities in this country.” ~Guest on HBO’s Last Week Tonight

It’s back-to-school time, and more has to be said about the problems with standardized testing.

standardized testing is stupid

These same tests are given to special needs students who made their way into the mainstream. Why are standardized tests “still a thing?” John Oliver asks.

Quotes from John Oliver on Standardized Testing

“Teachers have reported kids throwing up, kids crying, especially the younger ones.  And, it’s the pressure.  That’s true. In fact, this happens so much that official instructions for test administrators specify what to do if a student “vomits on his or her test booklet.”  Something is wrong with our system when we just assume a certain number of kids will vomit.”
“A Florida school board member was concerned and a little suspicious when he learned that only 39% of his state’s tenth graders had performed at or above grade level in reading. So, he had an idea. ‘I asked the district to give me the closest thing they could legally to the FCAT reading and math test, and I took it. That test labelled me as a poor reader, and I have a couple of masters’ degrees, and I’ve been re-elected four times and I teach 39 graduate courses at six universities in this country.’”

“If a test fails to reflect ability, there are human consequences; because, one shy Florida eighth grader who had a near perfect score in her advanced Language Arts class was asked to leave it last year due to her inexplicably low scores on the FCAT. And, last fall she told a school board meeting exactly how that felt. ‘Every year I do good in school, but I get low test scores on the FCAT, and it feels like a punch in the stomach.  It’s just unfair and I don’t want to lose my opportunity to take my advanced classes or get a better education just because of one test.’”

My Son’s Nightmare with Standardized Testing

My son Tanner has apraxia which flares when he’s sick, stressed, or tired. Even though Tanner was fine in day-to-day school testing, even though he could be tested with the same information and pass with flying colors, even in honors placement, he couldn’t pass the FCAT at first.

He knew that if he didn’t pass this test that he wouldn’t graduate.  Tanner didn’t pass the Florida standardized test (FCAT) the first few times he took it. This is in spite of maintaining a 3.5 GPA in honors classes with no IEP or 504 plan. In spite of being referred to by his teachers as a “top student,” I  was told by the principal “Even if Tanner has a 4.0 in all honors classes, if he doesn’t pass the FCAT, he will not graduate.”  I was both outraged and furious. I was on the phone with the school, the state, and every advocacy group I could find.

I did advocate to keep Tanner in his advanced placement, because that’s another thing they don’t tell you -that your child can be pulled from advanced placement (even if he’s doing well there) if they don’t pass this one stupid standardized test.

All the teachers at his school agreed a student who is getting As in Honors English shouldn’t be placed into remedial reading classes as the FCAT would recommend, but there were other negative consequences. Not passing the FCAT early enough also prevented Tanner from doing duel enrollment to work on his associates degree in HS.

But beyond that, imagine a student like my son who struggled to find his voice, where I had to advocate for him to be in the mainstream when early on the school system didn’t believe he’d “make it in the mainstream.” A student only I believed in. He not only rose up to “make it” but to become an honors student.

I’ll never forget when he said to me, “Mom, can you believe I’m in honors English getting an A?  I mean me with my apraxia?” (sniff)  We all were so proud of him that he was in honors. His goal is to become a special education attorney to advocate for children like himself. He was on the debate team, took advanced sign language, and volunteered as a cashier at the Humane Society.

After rising through so much struggle I literally could not wrap my head around the fact that my son wouldn’t be able to graduate if he didn’t pass this one stupid standardized test.

I know a few tricks when it comes to apraxia…take off the stress.  So -I lied to Tanner and told him he would graduate regardless of whether he passed the FCAT or not.  I figured if I took the stress off, he’d excel as he had been doing for years.

And it worked.  Tanner passed the FCAT and graduated with the rest of his class.  But what if that didn’t work?

Where’s the Evidence for Standardized Tests?

How many lives are the standardized tests destroying and who exactly are they helping?  I mean other than those they are helping financially?  Where is the evidence to support them?  Outside of real life examples, here’s just some of the evidence and reasons against standardized tests.

What about the time taken away from arts and sciences and play so that teachers can devote more time to teaching for these stupid standardized tests?

Matt Damon on Standardized Tests

Here is the speech that actor Matt Damon gave to thousands of teachers, parents and others who attended the Save Our Schools march on the Ellipse near the White House to protest education policies that are centered on standardized tests.

 

As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught.

And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am … can be tested.”

All I can say is enough is enough. Standardized testing is stupid.  As a country, we already don’t follow evidence on kindergarten and letting kids be kids. Whomever is elected this November, please let’s fix this for the sake of all the students, especially those with special needs!
standardized testing is stupid

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