New standardized testing proposal will hurt, not help learning

The state of Illinois is proposing the addition of mandatory standardized testing for grades 3 to 11 to determine a school’s rating. Illinois must abandon this proposal because standardized testing does not accurately show students’ academic achievements.

If the proposal is approved, beginning next spring, freshmen would take the EXPLORE test and the ISAT, sophomores would take the PLAN test, and juniors would have another WorkKey exam added to their two day testing period, according to an April Chicago Tribune article.

While the goal of increased testing is to track student growth more accurately, unfortunately, standardized testing fails to show true growth. Educational growth can range from completing assignments to participating in class discussions, and standardized testing fails to acknowledge such achievements.

Instead of rewarding productive classroom behavior, teachers are forced to concentrate on preparing students for tests. For example, before the state-administered ACT in April, juniors at LZHS missed one period a day to learn ACT strategies. In total, students lost 220 minutes of class last month, excluding the full two days missed for the actual testing.

This wasted class time hurts all students, especially AP students. Unlike the ACT, which is a mandatory test, AP exams are elective and can earn students college credit. Also, while the ACT tests general skills, AP exams test specific material from the course. The ACT is usually two to three weeks before AP exams begin, so AP classes need those valuable class periods to prepare.

Also, students already lose two days of in-class preparation for AP exams. Adding even more testing will further harm AP students. Illinois policy makers must realize the necessity of class time, not test time.

Unfortunately, standardized tests like the ACT can be pivotal to college acceptance. Providing Illinois students with a free ACT is beneficial, but adding more WorkKey exams would be a waste of resources.

Illinois currently has students take the applied mathematics, reading for information, and science portions of the WorkKey exam. These tests are not accurate measures of typical junior curriculum.

A sample question from asks, “In your job as a cashier, a customer gives you a $20 bill to pay for a can of coffee that costs $3.84. How much change should you give back?”

Asking 16 and 17-year-olds basic mathematic questions is a poor method of testing their knowledge and skills. ISATs test these basic skills throughout elementary school, therefore high school tests should focus on high school math. Also, the English exams ignore literature all together and focus on “work” prompts.

Instead of implementing more useless testing, the state should focus on creating more effective measures of educational growth. The state should analyze grades’ curriculum and test based on the skills they learn throughout the year.

Some tests, such as mathematics, may require more flexibility because of varying skill levels. However, testing actual skills will more accurately represent students’ educational growth.

Illinois does not have sufficient funds to add more standardized testing. They must abandon their proposal to increase standardized testing and instead focus their efforts on revising and improving the districts current testing system.