Standardized Testing Is the Biggest Waste of Classroom Time Ever


Standardized testing

A few weeks ago, Tween Girl Princess’ school hosted a pep rally. Unlike the usual hootin’ and hollerin’ over a new athletic season, this student-wide assembly was different: they were hyping the kids up for another round of standardized testing.

Teachers, principals, administrators, everybody took a turn jumping through a hoop and trying to get the kids all riled up to number 2 pencil the heck outta them little tiny dots. Woo hoo.

I thought this when I was back in grade school and now that I’m a parent, the same thought still holds true: standardized testing is the biggest academic farce ever. And I hate how they primp and groom the kids before they take them — and afterwards, too, if they do good. It's like the equivalent of turning young scholars into little circus poodles to show the state and the rest of whoever wants to read the scores that they're either excellent or suck-ish.

In the whole scope of the academic learning process, what do they even friggin' mean?

First of all, they’re a drain on precious classroom time that should be spent doing something more effective than — let’s be honest — making zippy patterns from the strategic placement of the a, b, c, or d dots. True, there are some students who genuinely sit and pour over the questions and accumulate a mounting pile of scrap paper, trying to match their work to the impossible multiple choice options on the page.

But when time or morale gets low, no one’s getting a good reading on the aptitude of those students. They’re not working to their full potential. They’re just trying to get done.

Remember how your answer used to always be off by like less than a tenth of any number that even closely resembled what you came up with? And you would rumple up your paper and try again, just to come up with a figure that was completely different from the first go-round but still not anything listed among the possible answers in the test booklet?

Time would be up and you’d have to play that very same ‘b-a-d-c-a-d’ game just to avoid leaving half a page of empty dots because you invested too much time trying to make a math miracle on one or two questions.

OK, maybe that was just me. A numbers whiz I have never, ever been. Man, those used to be stressful days. But that goes to show that there are folks who just aren’t good test takers. The pressure is overwhelming.

The rabble rouser in me wants to say no more and keep The Girl home next time they launch into a hoo-rah pre-test taking campaign. If I do, I got it fairly. I distinctly remember my mom writing a note to the school in the fourth grade refusing to allow me to participate in yet another round of exams after we had taken like two sets of acronymed tests already in the year. That was fine with me. I had my Judy Blume book to keep me occupied while everyone else was hunched over a sea of dotted sheets, so I was a-OK.

I suppose these test series are designed to prepare students for the SAT, the big daddy of all standardized examinations. That thing comes with instructional books, prep courses, and specialized tutors. You know it’s serious when you have coaches for a sit-down test. Then of course there’s the GRE, which I’ve taken twice and refuse to sit through ever again, the LSAT, the GMAT, and a dismal lot of others required by some colleges to prove that you are in fact bright enough to be enrolled. As if your grades themselves aren’t enough.

That’s what’s so irksome. So many students who are obviously smart with proven track records of achievement in their classwork and in-class tests and quizzes fall way, way short when it comes to penciling in those silly little dots. So what’s the point?

Do you think standardized testing is a waste of students’ time? Do you find the results to be a real reflection of your child’s (or your) ability?

Image via orangeacid/Flickr

education, grades


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Kirsten Anthony

I think state tests are useless, the No Child Left Behind has turned classes in to test incubators and most don't mean a dang thing outside the state and won't get anyone into college. The kids are taught to the test in most places and then can't pass the SATs to get into college, joy, we really prepared them didn't we?! I feel the testing that happens now is pointless and a waste of time that could be used to actually TEACH! It all comes down to money, to prove you deserve the funds you get you have to prove you can get your kids to pass the test. I recommend reading "The Death and Life of the Great American School System", it is eye opening.

Beths... Bethsunshine

Standardized tests are a crock. They are not a true measure of what a child really knows. I homeschool, and one of the state's requirements is that my children be tested in 3rd, 5th and 8th grade. I had to have them tested a few months ago. I ordered the test and my best friend administered it, because the parents aren't allowed to. It's such a waste of time and money, because the school district can't approve or disapprove me to homeschool based on the test scores. It's just a piece of paper I have to turn in. I'm with my children every day, I know what they're learning and what their weaknesses and strengths are.

momto... momtothemax2910

I think they can gauge students' strengths and weaknesses (it is this testing format that can identify poor test takers like 2 of ny siblings) but the bigger waste of time is that teachers are being pushed to teach to the test in order to improve a school's score. My teacher friends who teach a variety of age levels hate having to bring their classes to a screeching halt as testing time approaches to focus on teaching these tests. And then switching back and reviewing actual curriculum. While it is good to gauge learning this testing format isn't working.

purpl... purpleducky

I agree. Standardized tests show you nothing about what the child really knows. All they show you is how well the child does under very intense circumstances. And with the NCLB Act more and more schools are teaching the test than the actual material. This is why I refuse to send my children to a regular school. I want them actually learning.

sgr123 sgr123

Another reason I pulled my kids from public school.  My oldest was due to take the test this year.  All the teacher talked about, from the first day of school, was taking the test.  I pulled the kids after first semester.  I don't believe in standardized tests or school grading systems.

Ladyw... Ladywithtwo

Teachers are forced to teach students how to take a test instead of teaching actual information. Worse yet, once the testing is done, they do NOTHING! This year, my son came home and told me they had watched 2 movies that day! Add in lunch and recess and he had a completly wasted day.

nonmember avatar Anon

I don't agree that taking an occasional standardized test can be blamed for today's educational issues (hello, I took them 35 years ago, they're not new). The problem with just looking at class grades is that grades are too subjective. Different schools have very different standards for an "A." So if you're in college admissions, you need something more. And for young kids, how can you tell your school is reasonably competitive without having some objective measure by which to compare them with other schools? You think that if your kid is getting straight A's he's gonna be prepared for college, but what if all the other kids in college were at your kid's level two years younger? Wouldn't you like to know this sooner rather than later? Of course if you have no plans for your kids other than working at WalMart after graduation, then no problem. ... As for "teaching to the test," that's the fault of either poor test design or unimaginitive educators. My teachers never "taught to the test," they just made sure we learned how to read, write, and do arithmetic. Is there something wrong with any of these priorities?

Memph... MemphisSuzi

Though I think the standardized tests are flawed incredibly, I think that there has to be some measure of how much our children are learning.  Working around kids all day, you can see the vast differences in those in private vs public vs homeschooling.  I think all work in their own way but that there has to be some kind of checks and balances that these children really are learning. 

For example, we have one homeschooling mom whose 11 year old is at a senior in high school level but her 9 year old is barely testing at 1st grade -- something is not working in this scenario but the mother insists all is fine and that the tests are useless.

I think they need to be better but there has to be a checks and balances or even more kids will fall through the cracks.

sgr123 sgr123

Fortunately, my state does not require any testing for homeschooled children.  There will be kids slipping through cracks as long as only test material is being taught.  We had testing when I was in school, but we were taught much more than what was on the test.  I see, on this site, the product of the public school system and am not pleased by it at all.  Kids are graduating highschool without basic tools like spelling, grammar and reading.  I can not attest to math skills going by posts here, but from what I see in public and my own experiences in school, that is failing as well.  Another reason I know test scores are not a valid measurement of a school's success is how (at least in this state) the scoring is figured.  I transferred my kids to a better scoring school then later found out that, when figuring test scores, if the school has more than 50 special needs children testing, they have to include those scores as well.  That skews the test results big time.  The school my children went to did not have 50 or more so those test scores were not figured in and made the school look better, on paper, than it really is.

Kirsten Anthony

Nonmember I have NO PROBLEMS with the ACTUAL Standardized tests like the Stanford Achievement or the Iowa Achievement tests, those are Nationally Recognized and give a general idea of how a school system is doing on a NATIONAL level. The State Testing that has come out of the NCLB Act is completely useless. Doesn't carry ANY weight beyond the state level and to pass it most kids don't get the education they need to pass the SATs. As for learning to Read, Write and do Arithmetic, the way most state level tests are done the kids are NOT learning to truly Read, Write and do Math in the same ways we were. They are taught how to do these things in a way to pass the state tests on which many teachers and administrators jobs HANG ON. Good, Bad or Indifferent so long as the Teacher can get the kids to pass the test they stays, so long as enough Teachers get their kids through the tests the Principals stays and so long as enough schools pass in a district the Superindentant stays. The state tests which are done twice a year in most schools systems throughout the country is not about Education, it is about funding and money. The more kids that pass the better the salary or bonuses. Again I reiterate, get and read "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" by Diane Ravitch. It is worth the time

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