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Teachers should feel the pressure when their students do not succeed while opponents argue that placing such pressure on teachers just adds to the problem and makes success just that more difficult and unlikely.
Even the most ardent opponents to standardized testing among the teaching profession would likely argue that the demand for accountability is a legitimate one. Every profession needs to establish its credibility among the public and teachers should not be immune from this process, however, what has been lost in the process of trying to make teachers accountable is the value of what can be learned beyond the preparation for the standardized test. There is a necessity and value in establishing accountability but the method of using the standardized test to do so must be questioned.
When the use of standardized testing first came into vogue throughout the U.S. The goal was to establish a procedure for assessing students' educational achievement and to use such data to prepare all students to better compete in the marketplace. It was thought by testing students periodically throughout their educational career adjustments could be made along the way that might correct any potential problems. Unfortunately, a huge gap has occurred between what the original goals were and what the present reality is. Over the course of time, the sheer quantity of testing, the acceptable standards for passing, and the use of the testing data has increased well beyond what was originally contemplated and the individuals paying the price are the teachers.
The original goals in establishing standardized testing were not to measure the effectiveness of teachers or schools. The original goals were to assess the educational progress of the students. The original goals were not punitive in nature; instead, it was to provide assessment; just another tool in the continual process of educating young minds. The tests were not intended to replace the professional judgment of administrators and principals in assessing their staff. What has developed is a system of testing and re-testing that under minds the educational process and does not enhance the learning environment. Instead, it creates a stressful, restrictive, unimaginative, and fear driven environment.
This situation alone should be sufficient for policy makers to take a fresh look at the use and utilization of standardized testing but, on a more pragmatic level, the mere cost of the standardized testing should raise the concerns of such individuals (McNeil, 2007). It is estimated by some experts that nearly one half of a school system's yearly budget is allocated in some fashion to the preparation of standardized testing. The financial resources of the nation's schools are being utilized for the design and production of tests, the communication and enforcement of testing protocols, the extensive staff hours needed for test preparation, testing, scoring and reporting of test results, and the various other related costs that accompany the administration of the standardized tests. The funds being used were once used for hiring new teachers, providing educational support, offering summer learning programs, maintaining school facilities, providing continuing learning programs for teachers and staff, and establishing competitive salary structures for maintaining competent staff. Instead, far too much of the typical school budget is now earmarked toward the standardized testing process and what has been gained?
It is time for everyone who has even a remote interest in the nation's educational system to take a long hard look at how and why the standardized testing program exists. From the standpoint of the teaching profession there are inherent problems in the program that are hampering the teachers' ability to effectively teach and from the standpoint of the public the benefits of the testing, if any, must be balanced against the costs of maintaining the testing system. The options are various and many but a unified policy must be developed that is consistent with what the public wants from its educational system. The present state of affairs cannot continue. Too many, quality young people are opting out of pursuing a career in education due to the problems present in the system and it is imperative that the profession is once again made attractive to these individuals. It should be apparent after all these years of standardized testing that using such testing is not the answer to curing the perceived problems in education. Standardized testing has served to demoralize the teaching profession and those individuals in it and has done little to correct any of the problems that it was intended to resolve. A new approach is required but it remains to be seen whether politics will continue to make this change difficult.
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McGuinn, P.J. (2006). The Early Federal Role in Education (to 1988) - ESEA and the Equity Regime. In P.J. McGuinn, No Child Left Behind and the Transformation of Federal Education Policy, 1965-2005 (pp. 25-50). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
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