As most of you know I’m studying to be a an English teacher for middle school and junior high students. Those of you who live in Missouri, please vote “NO” on Amendment 3 coming up in the election on Tuesday. Here is why, standardized testing.
The amendment proposes there be standardized testing with the success of the students’ scores determining whether or not someone like me gets to keep their job. Many of you know how I feel about my job as a substitute. I love my job. By this time next fall, I hope to be teaching English in the local school systems while earning a Master’s degree.
The problem with Amendment 3 is it rests the responsibility of the teachers’ jobs on the shoulders of the youth. Many might see this as a positive. If the teacher is doing what they should, the students in turn should test well, right? Wrong.
I was discussing with my mother the problem with this. Everyone learns differently. There are eight ways of learning. If we reduce ourselves statewide to a number on a test, then we are only teaching the students to learn what we tell them and regurgitate.
I told my mother, I was one of those students who tried hard, studied and made decent grades but when it came to the SAT’s, my mind short circuited and I had to take the test 3 separate times. I still have problems taking tests, my mind sort of blanks out the important information and I can only remember other things I was taught. This happened with my first test in English Grammar this semester, I couldn’t remember the 8 morphemes, when ultimately I knew them.
This is what I’m afraid of, students who are like me, who know what they’re doing, who test poorly and suffer from test anxiety, will decide the outcome of many teachers. It isn’t their fault and they should not be held accountable for an adult’s job when the adult has done everything they can to prepare that student.
There is also the other kind of test taker, the student who doesn’t care. Sometimes they are the brightest kid in the room, but maybe they haven’t been taught proper etiquette, manners and respect for their elders. They simply do not care and sometimes will do their worst to spite a teacher. I have seen it happen.
So that leaves all the other students in-between. Some students may or may not study and will do mediocre, some will do fantastic. I don’t feel it is right for the outcome of anyone’s job to rely on a few select people.
Also by teaching students to only memorize and regurgitate on a standardized test, we aren’t teaching them to be well-rounded. We aren’t teaching them problem solving skills, logic, and worst of all, we aren’t teaching them to think for themselves. Will they actually be applying their skills and learning what they need?
Will Science teachers be able to perform experiments in their classes asking them to form a hypothesis and test the outcomes? Will Math teachers be able to help their students apply theories and practices? Will English teachers be able to teach their students how to write short stories teaching them about plot, motifs, and character? Will History teachers be able to teach what is needed or will History be doomed to repeat itself? What about the arts? How can an Art teacher and Drama teacher standardize their curriculum when their students are supposed to stand out and have a “voice” of their own?
To put things in perspective, Einstein had trouble communicating and learning in a standardized way. He didn’t fully start speaking until he was 4. Even when he first applied to university, he excelled in the Sciences and Math but did not pass the requirements needed for History, Languages, and Geography. If Einstein were alive today would you want his standardized tests to decide the outcome of your career?
Whoopi Goldberg and Richard Branson both dropped out due to frustrations with Dyslexia. Whoopi reflected on her Dyslexia by saying, “I knew I wasn’t stupid, and I knew I wasn’t dumb…. They knew I wasn’t lazy, but what was it?” Thomas Edison’s teachers wrongfully and insultingly told him he was too stupid to learn anything.
I will say it again, everyone learns differently. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. We weren’t meant to be good at everything. By standardizing tests, we will inevitably leave people behind and potentially no one will ever figure out where they shine.
Obviously advancements have been made in the world of teaching, but if we favor Amendment 3, we will no longer find out if we have geniuses, comedians, business tycoons or inventors in our classrooms.