The current era’s education is known to be defined by students themselves, including their academic success, the value of educators and instructional quality in America, learning standards adopted by each individual state, anxiety, the role played by parents outside of a school setting, and much more. Most Americans believe that student’s standardized test scores are the only legitimate indicator of a school’s efficiency. Since 1965, when the United States Elementary and Secondary Education Act became a law, standardized testing has been used to evaluate American public schools.
The ultimate goal of standardized testing is to examine how well teachers are preparing students and to improve student achievement. Some people would argue that standardized testing accomplishes the goal of examining educators, allowing them to better their skills for the future, while others would argue that the idea of standardized testing damages the educational system altogether. The leading debate that concerns most, but is brushed off by many, is whether the success of standardized testing should be used to indicate a student’s, teacher, and/or school’s capabilities.
The key objective of the American educational system is for every student to graduate from high school, college and career ready. In 1959, when Everet Lindquist launched the _American College Test_ (ACT), it was “designed as a test of student’s general educational development and could be used with other criteria to predict student success at the college level.”
After the launching of this well-known assessment, testing was being put in use in many educational settings. In 1954, as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s, _”WAR ON POVERTY”_ , the _Elementary and Secondary Education Act_ _(ESEA)_ was introduced. This act was reauthorized in 2001, which is now known as _No Child Left Behind_ _(NCLB)_ . This reauthorized act “requires states to develop assessments in basic skills. States must give assessments to all students at select grade levels in order to receive federal school funding.”
Race to the Top was introduced by President Barack Obama in 2012, which is a school district competition across the United States. This initiative was put forth to raise standards, with the goal of college and career readiness. In addition, Race to the Top has lead states to develop “rigorous standards and better assessments”, “support teachers and school leaders to become more effective”, and provide intervention for low performing schools. (Whitehouse.gov) Now that Race to the Top has become worldwide, it has become a controversial topic.
Civil Rights organizations have argued that “federal funding should be based on need, not competition.” As a result of the Race, teachers will be evaluated in relation to their students test scores. In a Huffington Post, updated in 2011, research professor and author Diane Ravitch stated that “it will make the current standardized test of basic skills more important than ever, and even more time and resources will be devoted to raising scores on these tests.” The new era of Race to the Top will cause the importance of standardized testing to increase, and the demand for privately managed charter schools to increase.
In June of 2010, “North Carolina adopted the Common Core State Standards in K-12 Mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts.” Beginning in 2012-13, the course of study was implemented in public schools across the state. In conjunction with these standards, “common exams” were put into effect. “”Common exams” or “Measures of student learning” refers to new assessments being developed to measure teacher effectiveness.”
A teacher’s effectiveness can reflect on how well a student performs on his or her exams. Since teachers are not told what is on exams or standardized tests such as this, they must prepare their students based on the standards put forth by the state and assume it will be the same material when testing. A common exam is “given in classes where students are not given an end of grade or end of course tests” and is “created by local educators and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to show the impact of teacher performance on student learning.”
The success of these standardized tests “provides students with feedback on their knowledge and skills” (Astro.Temple.edu). On the other hand, it “motivates teachers to identify their areas of strength and weakness in teaching plans so that they can reconstruct them” (Astro.Temple.edu). This forms a relationship between teacher performance and student learning.
On the other hand, many parents, students, as well as educators believe that standardized testing isn’t a great indication on a student’s knowledge. Standardized testing evaluates a student’s performance in one day, excluding any external factors. Many teachers are known to “”teach to the test” which can hinder a student’s overall learning potential” (Office of Work/Life Columbia University). There are many students who “are smart and understand the content, but it doesn’t show on the test. Many students develop test anxiety which hinders performance” (Office of Work/Life Columbia University).
For federal funding, schools depend on their student’s to perform well. “Competition among schools” can sometimes take place (Office of Work/Life Columbia University). This could be a hard factor to overcome, when schools have exceptional and special education students. Special education include “individual or small group instruction, curriculum or teaching modifications, assistive technology, transition services and other specialized services such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy” (CHADD: National Resource Center on ADHD). Students that are considered “exceptional” are required to take the same standardized test as student without learning restrictions, so how exactly is someone at a lower level given such high standards?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, enacted in 1990 and reauthorized in 1997 and 2004, was designed to “ensure services to children with disabilities throughout the nation” (idea.ed.gov US Department of Education). This was designed to ensure that all student, ages 3-21, receive appropriate education regardless of any disability. In addition to this, the disability they are diagnosed with must “affect his or her educational performance and must need special education in order to receive an appropriate education” (CHADD: National Resource Center on ADHD). “Many children in exceptional children’s programs have physical, mental, or social disabilities. In North Carolina, these academically gifted children are classified as EC, because they have different educational needs than the average child” (Exceptional Children UNC School of Education).
Since No Child Left Behind was passed, “students with disabilities must be included in state testing and assessed against the same standard of proficiency as other students to determine whether schools are making the required “adequate yearly progress” towards goals for academic proficiency. The regular assessment is given to students with special needs, and they are given appropriate accommodations. Appropriate accommodations include extra time to take the test, larger print, a quiet room, Braille, having the instructions repeated periodically, or more breaks than normally allowed” (Boehner 10).
In addition to the special benefits granted, an Individualized Education Program, (IEP), is designed for each child with a disability. Students under this program have a customized “learning plan” on how they will be evaluated and not whether they will be evaluated. “Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as a Nation’s Report Card, standardized test, which is used and measured the same in all states, provide useful information on the achievement and progress of students with disabilities. The results from the Nation’s Report Card show progress, as well as gaps, between students with disabilities and nondisabled students” (Aron and Loprest 112-113).