Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Standardized Testing Gets A Failing Grade


Is it just me or is Last Week Tonight already better than The Daily Show?

Ok, so that's a bit of an overly dramatic title. But it is semi-creative so it stays...for now.

Anyways, I just now watched John Oliver's video lambasting standardized testing and wanted to chime in and say that I couldn't agree more.

He goes over a lot of good points in his piece, so I'll touch upon a subject that he wasn't really able to elaborate on: standardized testing at the college level.


That's right. Whether you knew it or not, college administrators across the country are trying their best to ensure that blue books are burned and standardized tests are generated to take their place. Don't get me wrong: I hate blue books as much as anybody who ever went to college. I do, however, think that they do a decent job of evaluating students, as long as the grader knows what they're doing.

While standardized testing for the K-12 age group is deleterious at best, it would be even more of a mistake to inject that failed system into our colleges. Why is that? For one, everyone has a different major in college, and everybody takes different classes. In other words, it's not streamlined at all. How are you going to make a standardized test that covers all of a university's specialized courses?

Even if you made one standardized test for each major, you're still going to encounter problems.

You can see this in the GRE, which I just took last year. In order to create that horrible standardized test, they basically boil down everything you've learned in college into three basic categories. Even then, it's likely you are woefully deficient in one of those categories because certain majors rarely do math, while others rarely deal with reading or writing. If standardized testing barely works for the GRE, how would it work to evaluate college student's abilities in regard to a specialized subset of their major?

You just know that if standardized testing became the norm in college, you'd have pre-med students being asked questions that should, in reality, be going to a pre-law student. It's just how standardized testing is: lazy, boring, and difficult, with the result not being indicative of a person's actual skill/intellect.

I myself always thought that standardized testing was a bit superfluous while growing up. It never really tested you on anything specific, and forced teachers to create lesson plans that obviously had no soul/feeling to them. As I've learned in college, a hour's worth of discussion is often more of a clear indicator of someone's grasp of the material than any sort of wonky test.

Perhaps that's why I am pursuing my PhD. When you're learning the right way, you don't want it to end. Standardized testing, at its worst, inhibits both our natural curiosity and our thirst for discovery. With luck, we'll see them, and the corporations who fueled their rise, collapse into the abyss in the years to come...

For more on this subject, check out this wonderful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6lyURyVz7k

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