Don’t hate tests, they matter

When I sat in a stuffy testing room at California State University East Bay, it was difficult to miss the tension-filled atmosphere. At one point, my mind fantasized about joining hundreds of students nationwide to boycott exams.

I recall the writing prompt on the ACT standardized test states, “Placing fast-food outlets in schools encourages students to eat food that is high in salt, fat, and empty calories. Should fast-food franchises be allowed in high schools?” I shook my head in dismay, clearly showing an aversion to the countless hours of prep work I had in store.

Students – and many parents – have many reasons to hate testing, whether it’s a classroom quiz about photosynthesis, or a standardized exam. After all, exams can spark academic dishonesty, waste valuable instructional time, and aggravate those who attempt to balance a rigorous course load, strenuous extracurriculars, and satisfactory health.

In recent years, research demonstrates that tests can boost student outcomes, according to the Wall Street Journal. In fact, test-based approaches to learning appear to be specifically crucial for individuals from low-income backgrounds.

Women, minorities, low-income, and first-generation students generally benefit more from these approaches than those from more wealthy, educated families, according to my economics teacher at Chabot College. On the other hand, assessments often improve teaching and learning, which support high quality testing practices and programs that align to the new standards.

But there are certainly issues with tests. For years, schools have relied on weak assessments (like the new SBAC test) that do not accurately gauge the ability level of each student. They are often established based on the assumption that every student receives the same quality of educational experience. While some schools contain higher intellectual vitality than others, the quality of education at each institution is not effectively evaluated by one single test.

The nation is doing a better job grasping the role of tests though. In the recent enhanced ACT writing, students are required to take a position, evaluate all three perspectives listed in the box, and discuss the relationship between the perspectives. This more open-ended assignment “will allow students to more fully demonstrate their analytical writing ability.” It is intended to stay relevant to the modern educational system and convey complex ideas, concepts as well as information precisely through the effective analysis of content.

In reality, this redesigned test efficiently reflects the disparities between students’ ability to apply knowledge on a broad topic. While their test scores in other subject areas may be lower, they are allowed to apply materials they came to learn in the classroom to form a feasible opinion. Additionally, the writing portion succeeds to include an enriched curriculum with lessons that require students to utilize fundamental concepts.

We should not alter our education to conform to a test. But do not forget our original intention to join a public institution. Tests help create a classroom vitality that focuses on creating norms that support rigorous educational practices, and hold students accountable for their learning.

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