Chapel Hill: Opinion

Olivia Weigle: Standardized testing not worth the costs

Recently 10,000 people in Texas protested against standardized testing. Seattle teachers boycotted over it, and in Los Angeles school board candidates argued about it.

Although standardized tests have been used by the American education system for over 100 years, their use really took off in 2002 when the No Child Left Behind Act ordered annual testing in all 50 states.

U.S. students went from 18th in the world in math in 2000 to 31st place in 2009, with similar results in science and no change in reading. These losses in the education system have been blamed on rising poverty levels, teacher quality, tenure policies, and increasingly on the pervasive use of standardized tests.

I believe that standardized tests currently have too many negative effects on the U.S. school system compared to the information they provide.

Standardized testing, such as the MAPS test, causes too much stress and anxiety among students. Dr. Wendy Sapolsky of the Carithers Pediatric Group says she has seen increased anxiety in the past five to eight years due to standardized testing in Florida. “This time of year we have some children that have such severe anxiety that we can’t get them to school at this time of year,” she says. “ Literally, they will not get out of the car.” This level of stress has very bad psychological consequences for children child and affects how they'll do on a test, according to Rhema Thompson .

Another negative consequence is that schools are spending too much time and money on these tests. “In Texas schools they spend between 29 to 45 days a year taking tests. In Tennessee, students spend six weeks in testing a year, and California’s students spend four weeks,” Jasmine Evans says on education.com.

In my opinion we are spending way too much time taking tests instead of learning. And it’s not just time. The Washington-based Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution reports that states spend $1.7 billion all together on standardized testing each year, according to Huffington Post.

Those who support standardized testing believe these tests provide information to teachers about what level their students are at and information about teachers and schools level of performance. Unfortunately the quality of these tests does not justify the resources sacrificed.

Because students know the tests won’t affect their grade, many students don’t take the tests seriously, which results in inaccurate test scores In 2013, the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “State assessments in mathematics and English often fail to capture the full spectrum of what students know and can do.” In addition, the tests are unreliable. A student could take two standardized tests that are about the same and get very different results, due to testing conditions or the test taker's mental or emotional state, according to The National Center For Fair And Open Testing.

In sum, standardized tests have too many negative consequences for the U.S. school system relative to the data they provide. Instead of spending $1.7 billion on testing we could spend it on buying textbooks for students and paying teachers more. I’ve been in middle school for three years and have only received two books that I could take home and study on my own. I propose that each school year U.S. schools should only administer two tests per subject and limit the time taking tests to eight days. In addition schools should research stress-reducing methods to use during the testing session.

Olivia Weigle is a student at Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill.

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