Most middle-school children will say they do not care about the PSSAs and know that they will have no true impact on their academic career. The tests do not control whether or not they graduate and have no effect on their college applications. These children are now wasting their precious educational time on tests that they do not care about, try on, or quiz important knowledge they will need in the future.
If we want the children to actually learn and do what many believe school is meant to do – prepare children for college or work – we should be teaching them to their goals, not the state’s. We must take away the standardized tests and replace them with tests designed to assess their knowledge of information relevant what they will be doing in the future.
One of the most glaring issues with the current form of standardized testing is the fact that students do not care and therefore do not try. The lack of effort then leads to poor scores which do not give true and accurate results of what the students have learned. Not only are the tests creating a poor reflection of the American student, the tests are also taking away necessary funding from schools that need it the most. Currently, the schools that do not do well are receiving even less funding which only hampers their academic standards because these are poorer districts.
The idea of funding is not the problem though. The problem lies in what is being tested. As Valerie Strauss says, the students need to be checked for sufficient knowledge, but it must be important to their future. The testing for the future should begin in vocational technical or career and technological centers, because this will be an easy place to test for competency and, therefore, funding. Each student will be tested on how well they know their craft. For example, a student in small engines repair will be graded on how well they know to fix a motorcycle engine according to what they should know. If the proper percentage is able to do so, then the career center, and career center only, will receive extra funding to keep up its work.
The concept is slightly more difficult to transfer into schools because of the broad base of knowledge. The first way to avoid this is by making the tests later in the child’s high school career. But for those that do know what they want to study, they will be tested on the knowledge of what they will need once they get into college. For example, a student who wants to be a physics major should be tested on the high school level of physics, but also related mathematics so that they are well rounded and have a good base of knowledge for any course related to their intended field of study. The same idea can still be applied for students that may not have their major in a high school class, such as criminal justice. Though the children may not be able to prepare for the actual work of criminal justice, they can be tested on government, law in the current culture and non-creative writing, all of which are taught in public high schools today. The idea does not mean students should get to skip out on subjects like English in the physics student’s case, or math in the criminal justice student’s case. It means that they will not be engrained with information they will rarely need except for regurgitation on the standardized tests.
The idea will be difficult to fight for, but what must be remembered is what is at stake. The future of not only our children, but also our country, is lying with the children in the current public school system, one that is floundering and falling behind more and more. We should prepare our students for what really matters, competing in a global economy. To prepare them, the battle must be taken to the people who create the educational guidelines. Go out and talk to the local house representative and school board. It could bring about one of the biggest and most effective changes in education.
By Josh Rankin