We asked the following question to readers on social media and the Public Insight Network recently: Is is time to do away with standardized testing? Is there a better option?
Thanks for all of your responses. Below is a sampling of your comments, some of which were edited for length and clarity. Learn more about the Public Insight Network and comment on previous discussions at MiamiHerald.com/community and select Community Conversations.
Children learn and test differently. Unless someone comes up with a way to test a child based on his or her learning personality, it is a waste of time to expect each child to succeed based on the same protocols for each child. It’d be better to let the teachers go back to teaching, so that they can see how to help each child individually. On that smaller scale, the teacher can help the child best. The measure should be on the teacher’s ability to inspire a child to learn. How can that be measured? Let's use our resources to train the teachers better, to motivate them, give them all the necessary tools so they don't have to spend their own money to buy supplies. The system needs to be changed, and our focus should be on children learning and teachers loving what they do. Because if the teachers aren't happy, the children will suffer.
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Rosa Santana, Hallandale Beach
While I think there may be too much standardized testing right now, I do not feel there is a better way to reveal how much students have learned over time and how they compare to other students. There is value in measuring student performance — for teachers, parents and student — and testing is a proven method of doing so.
Mandee Adler, Hollywood
It is past time to do away with standardized testing. One myth that hasn't been addressed often is the assumption that standardized tests are in some way "objective measures" of knowledge. These tests are written by human beings with individual ways of thinking and individual biases in terms of what is important. Research has proven time and time again that results on standardized tests are a more accurate predictor of socioeconomic level than of knowledge. The fact that these scores are held up as some sort of "proof" of knowledge is a completely false premise that is seldom, if ever, questioned. Standardized tests have always been a factor in trying to measure student learning, but just that — a factor. They were never intended to be a sole measurement of knowledge. A better option would be portfolio assessment, in which the student presents a body of work that demonstrates knowledge acquired in different disciplines, with an oral explanation of the work.
Connie Crawford-Rodriguez, Miami Lakes
As a special education teacher, I have witnessed the insanity of relying completely on standardized tests to assess a student's academic year. Several times I have had bright students walk into a test without medication or emotionally wrought and bomb it. When this happens in third grade, it means retention. I also have many ADD students who verbally can answer questions, but struggle to put it down on paper. Standardized tests are needed. However, there should be a system that also takes into account student classwork and teacher judgment.
Juan Varona, Miami
As a high school teacher, I am not a huge fan of standardized testing — not for teachers or students. That being said, I do strongly believe that there is a time for them when it matters most. I advocate for returning to the way it was done in the past: Every course that's offered in school should have a pre-test and at the end a post-test (or "end-of-course" exam). This way, each class can point to demonstrable results of how effective the teacher was or how well students performed. Then in grades five, eight and 12, aptitude testing should be used to determine eligibility for promotion to the next level of schooling, with 12th being a Regents exam to receive a diploma. This model has been used successfully for many years and in many places and simply works the best. Most important of all, it does not impose unduly or unreasonable amounts of testing throughout the school career of our children — only when critically important.
Michael E. Levinson, Plantation
If the tests are used to diagnose the student's mastery of the subject and are only used to determine what is needed to be done to improve the student's mastery of the subject, then the tests are good. If the tests are used as a part of teacher evaluation and to determine whether a student passes or fails, then the test must go. There are many factors which determine whether a student passes or fails a test. Many of these factors, such as poverty and lack of language skills due to being foreign born, are beyond the teacher's control. Testing as it is being done now is detrimental to both students and teacher and must go.
Theresa Lianzi, Hollywood
There always is a better option. It is a more difficult one and it requires independent examiners. Our students should have a complete portfolio at the end of their eighth grade and at the end of 12th grade. One could decide what would be in the portfolio, but some important features would include essays, position papers on social justice and specific samples of student work in math, science and social studies. Students should also complete a group project that involves collaboration and independent thinking. Students should also respond to questions to demonstrate their analytical qualities and critical thinking.
Bernice Stephens-Alleyne, Miami
There is always room for tests in school. But the nation's educational system does pay too much attention to the national tests created by institutions like the Educational Testing Service. We are a diverse nation, and states and localities should be able to customize their curricula and student evaluation procedures to meet local objectives, local values, local demographics, the local economy and other variables, while also subject to some degree of higher level review and oversight.
Seth Gordon, Miami
Too many children go to school to socialize and disrupt. There must be knowledge accountability, and standardized tests are the only objective way to reach that goal. Grade inflation makes that standard unreliable.
Hal Daniels, Tamarac