Standardized Tests May Be Harming Your Child

How do you stand on the use of standardized testing to evaluate students and teachers? I suspect that, being “in the trenches” with your child(ren) and dealing with daily demands and issues, you may have no stance or particular interest in the issue. Even so, I want to encourage you to take notice and be willing to speak up against standardized testing. Be aware that your children’s future may be strongly impacted by our increasing reliance on these tests to assess aptitude and achievement in children, and to evaluate teacher performance.

Children with special needs are most particularly impacted by testing which may grossly underestimate their potential, and their capacity to learn under optimal conditions. Likewise, the potential of many talented and gifted children with different learning styles or with ADD issues may be seriously underestimated by a “one size fits all” approach to testing. With our special needs children we often find ourselves fighting both for services for their deficits, and also for attention to their unrecognized potentials. Using a standardized test which requires “standard” skills of reading, interpretation and integration will seriously underestimate and misconstrue the capacities of many special needs children.

Proper assessment of any special needs child should include individualized evaluation such as is performed in speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy. By these means, and only by these types of approaches can a good sense of the child’s strengths and weaknesses be obtained. Isn’t it a paradox that schools aim to establish an individualized educational program (IEP), while depending on standardized tests which are not individualized, to ascertain where your child is academically?

Our children spend nearly half of their waking life in school, entrusted to teachers, most of whom have chosen their occupation because they care about children and learning, not because of salary or status. Teachers are very important people in the lives of our children, taking on the task of guiding, containing, and instructing as many as 30 energetic, rambunctious young children each day. As teachers and most parents know, children are different one from another, different in interests, maturity, aptitudes, academic achievement, resiliency, values, family milieu, etc. Is it reasonable to assume that these differences can be reliably “averaged out” to avoid bias in comparing different classes? Is it fair to rely on standardized test scores to evaluate teacher performance, and even base remuneration and job security on these scores?

If school funding and teacher evaluations are to be based on standardized test scores, then we can expect teachers to focus on teaching children how to get good test scores, effectively neglecting higher priorities, such as curiosity and love of learning, social/emotional intelligence, appreciation of diversity, self-regulation/assurance, and individualization of instruction. Inevitably, the emphasis shifts to outcome (scores) vs. process (exploration, learning), thereby compromising the development of resiliency and life skills normally provided in classroom education. Our children need to learn to appreciate and cultivate their differences; they can’t all be “above average.” Teachers need to be free to individualize their work with students, and focus on issues deeper and more relevant to thriving in life than numerical test scores.

Please make your voices heard, and speak out against standardized testing of our children. Join the thousands of teachers who also object to this mass method of evaluating both children and teachers.

I am interested in your thoughts and commentary. John Green MD