High-stakes standardized tests not only negatively impact the educational experiences of students, particularly students of color, they also produce data that “[tells] us what we already know: The schools that disadvantaged children attend are not being given the supports to produce achievement gains” (Dianis et al., 2015). As we put more pressure on schools to improve test scores for low-scoring demographics, the time students spend on test prep and testing begins to dominate the schooling of these students (Viadero, 2017).
Testing Dominates Time in School
Students spend an approximately 20 days out of the school year taking mandated standardized tests, not to mention the time spent taking practice tests and doing additional test prep (Viadero, 2017). The amount of pressure put on these tests and their scores changes as we question the effectiveness of testing (Viadero, 2017). Even though we know this type of testing is unproductive at improving education for all students, we cannot seem to let go of high-stakes testing altogether for better methods of student assessment.
Students of color and other lower scoring demographics are getting a wholly different experience in schools. “Children of color are more likely to be subjected to overtesting and a narrowing of curriculum in the name of test preparation” (Dianis et al., 2015). This time spent on test prep and testing is rarely engaging or enriching for students (Dianis et al., 2015). By spending so much time around testing, public schools are failing to fulfill their obligation to actually educate students. These tests ultimately waste an incredible amount of time because “they do little more than measure predictable inequities in academic outcomes (Dianis et all, 2015).
National Testing Requirements and Standards
The implementation of national standards like the Common Core only increases the amount of time spent on testing in classrooms (Viadero, 2017). The standards set by Common Core are basically impossible for many schools to reach with the resources they have available. No Child Left Behind, a federal law that requires standardized testing and incentivizes high scores (by penalizing low scoring schools), ultimately just functions to label schools educating poor children and children of color as “failing” without providing the support necessary to improve low scores (Dianis et al., 2015).
Viadero describes a jump in test anxiety in schools with the increase of time spent on testing (2017). Even children who are not typically anxious seem to develop stress with these frequent and high-stakes standardized tests (Vidadero 2017). Some schools are coping with this by designating staff to help students deal with test anxiety—since these tests are state and federally mandated, there is little else they can do (Vidadero. 2017).
Dianis et. al (2015) discuss opting out as an option for parents dissatisfied with the current standardized testing system. Opting out is one way parents can express their criticisms of the current system and communicate that they want their children to receive more than testing and test-prep in their school days (Dianis et al., 2015). This system of high-stakes standardized testing clearly is not working to improve education for all students. Considering alternatives, Viadero proposes these questions: “What would assessments look like if they were designed by students themselves? Would students become more engaged in their learning?” (2017).
Viadero, D. (2017). Assessment: A Snapshot of a Field In Motion: Much rides on student testing, and that’s what keeps the field in a constant state of flux. Education Week, 36(32), 5.
Dianis, J. B., Jackson, J. H., & Noguera, P. (2015). High-stakes testing hasn’t brought education gains. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(1), 35-37. DOI:10.1177/0031721715602235