Op-Ed: A farewell to arbitrary

Standardized tests don’t help students learn

| April 10, 2016
Montalvin Manor Elementary School fourth-grader Jose Anaya works on a math problem in Beth Levine's class at the school in San Pablo, Calif., Oct. 15, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

Montalvin Manor Elementary School fourth-grader Jose Anaya works on a math problem in Beth Levine’s class at the school in San Pablo, Calif., Oct. 15, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

As students employed under the red-tape of higher learning, we all know the hardships attributed to performing well. Tests, quizzes, homework and projects are all met accordingly in the library, as we strenuously work towards good grades. Deadlines are sought after, but sometimes the perplexities of life prohibit a planned paradigm and cramming wins out. Installed in every student though is a chance for success, an opportunity to work hard and see fit that the materialization of our efforts pays off in a quantifiable manner.

Sometimes, we are faced with obstacles that, on the outside, appear conquerable, but in reality are beleaguered to the institution it encompasses. I cannot think of anything that embodies this belief in such a pertinent way as standardized, multiple-choice tests.  Standardized tests are one of these mechanisms that does an excellent job at weeding out those who picked afoul. They’re sole purpose is to test student’s knowledge of the curriculum, in that a student’s test grade somehow miraculously corresponds to their competence in that subject. I find this exemplar to be an insult to the very intelligence it sets to assess.

To be fair, standardized tests are the most convenient way to administer academic evaluations to the masses. They can be sent to the scantron machine for a quick check, assigning grades on the basis of correct percentage and correct percentage alone. It’s easy. Far be it for me to suggest that the best way to oversee education is not by mere ease. I will never see the utility in replacing quality with quantity, no matter how timely or user-friendly it may seem. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, but what can be said about a system that perpetuates the exile of true knowledge if doing so cozies up a better grade?

Take a trip down memory lane and recall any standardized test you have done throughout your tenure in education. Can you tell me anything about the subject matter? Days, weeks, months, even years after taking that test, have you retained any of the information? Are you confident enough in yourself to be tested again? The answer to all these questions is D. Oh wait, I forgot that assigning a letter from the alphabet to a set of answers is just a valiant effort to test the fallacy of mankind. But congratulations, you passed the test with a B! Forget that you can’t remember limits or the Constitution or the periodic tables but damned if you didn’t earn that B on your test.

I believe in Mark Twain’s take that schooling should not interfere with your education. Similarly, why let the administration of a malignant standardized score reflect your worth when we should be focused on actually learning the material as a whole? Conversely, what’s to say you have no idea of the material at hand and by sheer guesses, aided with dumb luck, get an attractive grade? Clothed with nothing more than artificial intellect and fake acumen, the gleaning opportunity to learn will be missed, but the reward of passing granted.

There is nothing more detrimental to academic health than arbitrarily bubbling ‘all of the above’. Standardized tests kill brain cells who are under the impression they have an incentive to prove the grasp contained in their inhabitancy. Its prey fall victim to an apathetic foundation eternalized by an abyss of blank bubbles and petty eraser marks. The only redeeming factor is to throw out bemused notions of test scores for the sake of test scores and replace it with a yearning for knowledge. Once you can separate fact from fiction, prioritize learning over passing, the grades will come.

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Category:Opinion, Student Life

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