The American School System

What's Wrong, and How to Fix It

    As teens and adults, we've done exam after exam. Do they really indicate knowledge?

To answer that question, no, they don't.

First thing's first is to figure out why it doesn't work. Let me introduce you to something called cramming. It's a test preparation technique widely used among students whether they know they're doing it or not. It is when a student studies before a test, staying up late to memorize as much information as possible.

This strategy promotes bad sleeping habits along with physical and mental issues such as anxiety and obesity.

As an example, the night prior to a test, a student may study late. The problem is, after the test is over, the student will take a sigh and forget everything they studied that night. Thus, defeating the purpose of the test.

Cramming only lasts for short-term memory.

Some argue standardized tests are clear and measurable, which is false. Students are tricked to believe they are being tested on math or science. They think that their abilities and performance are being tested, all of which is invalid. Students are simply being graded on memory, and their ability to take a test.

There are times when examiners grade the same test and the same work differently. How is this accurate?

Another thing is, pressure. Yes, we all know it's part of life, but is a test the most safe and healthy way to teach students to deal with it? Research has shown that people who have high levels of anxiety will decline in performance.

Instead of learning about Henry Vlll and his wives, students should be taught life skills, and how to deal with pressure.

Teachers and principals also go about standardized test completely incorrectly. With the mindset of, "These students will do well on the test, or else." This way of thinking completely disregards the purpose of the test, to improve student learning. Likewise, in such an advanced society, the American School system has not been updated to fit new jobs, culture, or technology.

So what do we do to fix it? One of the first steps is to think about the purpose of the test, and whether it's meaningful. Figuring this out is telling what is important for students to learn, how we know what they've learned, and how we can help them learn.

One example is the portfolio assessment. This means the student and the teacher gather work to track a student's progress in many subjects. The students can do assignments to help them achieve goals, or take a course that will be benificial for a future career.

   At the end of the term, a teacher will examine a student's work based on a a scoring guide. This leaves no room for bias due to handwriting or the student's name. The scoring guide should have explicit guidelines that are easy to follow.

     The one downside is how they would be transferred from school to school, but using platforms like Google Classroom or Google Docs is an easy fix. And it's a lot better than old filing cabinets.

     In the New York Times, Harvard Professor Howard Gardener said,"Educators and parents should value knowledge and skills that go beyond a single test... High performance {is} an incidental result of general preparation."

     The National Assessment Education Progress (NAEP), a government agency that monitors student progress, uses the portfolio technique.

     The Maryland State Performance Assesment Program (MSPAP) covers writing, math, science, reading, and social studies in the same way.

    Politicians complain about this issue, but no one wants to fix it. It's time to speak out on this topic.

  Is it time for a change?

  

Sources: Debate.Org, Newschools.org 

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The American School System