The Daily Gamecock

Tête à Tête: Exams improper measure for knowledge, skills

The Issue: Recent cheating scandals in schools have called into question the effectiveness of standardized testing

Since 2009, Atlanta Public Schools have been embroiled in a scandal over teachers cheating on standardized tests administered to students.

This is not a new phenomenon, and Atlanta is certainly not the only place this is happening. In the 2005 book “Freakonomics,” Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner find evidence of the same phenomenon.

When bonuses, or even just being able to keep your job, rely on how well your students perform on an exam, there is a serious incentive for teachers to change test scores. This, among other things, makes standardized testing ineffective.

Another big problem with standardized tests arises when teachers focus more on teaching students to beat a test than on giving them actual knowledge. I had several classes in high school where the teacher emphasized from the very beginning the importance of passing a certain test at the end of the year.

In each of those courses, more time was spent teaching us how to take the test than actual course material.

And while there was some overlap between the two, the class missed out on a lot of important information just to focus on the test. When that happens, student test scores may increase, but actual learning decreases.

Standardized tests also often struggle to accurately test for critical thinking as opposed to a recitation of facts. This instills superficial knowledge in students that is not nearly as useful as being able to analyze and solve problems.

Using standardized testing as a measure of student intelligence and learning as well as teacher performance is simply ineffective. The tests can be beaten either through cheating or test-specific instruction, not to even mention the inherent biases of said tests.

This is counterproductive to actual learning but has become commonplace in our education system thanks to the prolific use of these inadequate tests.


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