Every year around April and May students begin preparing for the multiple exams they are required to take. This can cause unnecessary stress and worry on students, as well as on the teachers preparing them for the exams. Standardized testing creates a mindset within students that focuses on memorizing the materials rather than actually learning the subjects they study.
According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), a standardized test is “any examination that’s administered and scored in a predetermined, standard manner.” This means that every student must take an exam or standardized test in the same way, which does not create a fair testing environment for everyone involved.
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002 mandated standardized testing in all 50 states. Since then, U.S. students slipped from being ranked 18th in the world in math in 2000 to 40th in 2015, and from 14th to 25th in science, as well as 15th to 24th in reading. These statistics do not support the use of standardized testing because students’ scores
have decreased considerably since implementing nationwide yearly testing.
The purpose of these tests is to measure a student’s aptitude, which shows how well a student will perform in a given setting and measures how well a student has learned a subject. In high school, standardized tests often count for a percentage of the student’s final grade in a class, which causes them unnecessary amounts of stress. When schools and teachers put pressure on students to do well on a test that could make or break their grade, it leads to the students feeling overly stressed and worried about a test that may not accurately measure their abilities.
The effects of standardized testing not only affect the students taking the tests, but the teachers, as well. A five-year University of Maryland study completed in 2007 found “the pressure teachers were feeling to ‘teach to the test'” since NCLB was leading to “declines in teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments, and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum.” Exams put stress on students and teachers, creating an unhealthy environment not only for exams, but for learning and teaching.
In order to accurately measure students’ learning abilities, exams should be encouraged as an exercise rather than a mandatory assessment. If students feel as if the exams they take are beneficial to them in ways other than boosting their GPAs, they may feel less stress to get a perfect score. If exams were simply a tool for students to use to gauge how much of a subject they learned, they could still test accurately without the background stress of having to get a great score. This would allow students to see how much of a subject they have learned. In turn, teachers would have reduced stress because they could focus more on teaching their students rather than shoving test material into their minds. Exam season is the most important time to stress that the importance of school is not simply to pass tests but to truly learn the materials provided.