A Schoolteacher's Musings

In Their Own Words – What Kids Think of Standardized Testing

The very last assessment I gave this school year was one required by the state on a civics topic, and [ironically], I chose to have my 5th-graders debate and write their opinion piece on standardized testing. Why, you might ask? Because a) the topic had to be a controversial one (which standardized testing most definitely is), and b) they had just taken the state test so they had first-hand knowledge of how they were affected by it.

As we discussed the stakeholders in this topic, I asked the kids, “What is one group that is directly affected by the standardized tests, yet don’t even get to have a say in it?” And they were quick to identify – “Us!”

Funny, isn’t it, that governments and politicians think they know so well what’s best for kids – yet they don’t even ask the kids themselves what they think? They might argue that “they’re just kids” – they don’t understand what’s necessary for their education.

That’s where I disagree with you. After reading what my kids wrote about standardized testing, I was amazed at just how well they understand what they need in their education. I was also incredibly proud of them that they could write well-organized, articulate essays in only an hour that clearly show what they think and why they think that way. Proof that they have smart minds that can think deeply – if we only let them. So maybe it’s time to start encouraging more of that deep thinking in more authentic ways – instead of holing them up for four to six days to take long tests on the computer.

Without further ado, then, here’s what several fifth-graders wrote about the topic of standardized testing (edited only for some spelling and grammar mistakes):

“So as you can see I don’t want standardized tests and I have reasons, real ones. One of them is that students get bored all day. The next reason is that it depresses students. And it’s not only students that suffer – it’s teachers, too.”

“The SBAC takes so much time that it takes three days to finish. Not kidding, three whole days of school! There could still be a whole bunch of things we need to do and learn; taking a long, stressful test isn’t teaching us a thing. In fact, it’s like punishment for nothing.”

“For example: when I took my last standardized test, I got headaches from time to time. I also got REALLY bored and only in the first day! Not to mention we could only leave the room for water and restroom breaks. You can only imagine how I was on the 3rd day.”

“Kids can be prepared and then forget everything due to stress. And sometimes when kids are stressed at home, teachers can’t help that.”

“First of all, many teachers think there are better ways to show growth. Instead we could do something fun, like the giants we did for Math or the projects we did after reading books like the Frindle folder … Would YOU ever want innocent kids to suffer through this?”

“We have to stare at a screen all day, and only taking 1 or 2 breaks for recess and a snack. I got dizzy really quick from the computer in front of me and next to me.”

“ … if the students don’t do good then the teachers get fired. That is unfair in my opinion. Cause what if the student doesn’t care about the test and doesn’t try to do good on it? … And there is better ways to show growth than these stupid tests.”

“This is on how politicians think of standardized tests. Well, they think it is good for kids, but they don’t know that cause they don’t take the test.”

“Some kids have anger issues or other issues that make them struggle through tests. So there has to be a better way to take these tests for issued kids. If there isn’t a way they might get bad grades due to their issues. So help find another way for us.”

“The test is just in one day and the students might have not learned a thing that is on the test because there wasn’t enough time to teach it. The teachers could have used the time for the test to teach the students that one thing … Will you make the world a better place by getting rid of standardized tests?”

“Less stress would be well needed both in the classroom and at home because teachers already have enough stress in the classroom from planning schedules and taking care of us students.”

“Another reason why politicians agree with the standardized test is they think it is fair for all schools to have the same test over the state. They want to have everyone take the same test so it can be fair. But people are at different levels, so it’s not really fair.”

“Also, we have a wonked up schedule all week.”

“[Politicians] want to compare schools, but kids don’t like being compared to one another.”

“It doesn’t show students’ progress that much because it rushes students, because it is a test …”

“Teachers don’t have time to watch kids and sit there because they need to be teaching – and not just sitting there waiting for a child to raise their hand to ask a question.”

“Who remembers the teachers instantly ruining your learning experience by grabbing a jarful of math and ELA and throwing all the other subjects in the trash like yesterday’s garbage? I do. For the time being. This event is called, “teaching to the tests” where the SBAC makes the teachers prepare their students with a faceful of math and ELA for the entire year. They do this because they want students to do good on the SBAC cause if the students do horrible, either the teachers lose their jobs or the entire school shuts down. Insane, right? This pressure causes teachers to make a learning experience fun to ruined. It’s like finding gold for the very first time, till you figure out it’s pyrite, “fool’s gold.” Would you know how upset you would be? It’s that bad.”

“I strongly advise you to try and stop this test-making process. If you’re a teacher, and … would prefer for your kids to be scared of the test, then stand up for tests, but I say that you shouldn’t. If you’re a mom, or know a mom, then you wouldn’t like a drowsy, worn-out kid to come to your house, especially if they play sports. If you would like to use money to give kids bad dreams, and the money from some of their parents, then become a politician, but I would strongly advise you to go against them. I am saying this with a teacher, and my parents, and I know how it turns out. So, please, try and stop this test, for most, if not all of the kids.”

The kids get it. They understand. Now I think it’s time for a few law-makers in the state capital to also start understanding like these eleven-year olds.

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