Testing as a part of school curriculum is a curious thing: it seems to be universally hated by students, teachers and parents, constantly gets criticized as inefficient, time-consuming and mentally frustrating, but somehow manages to strengthen its positions throughout the United States.
What started as an initiative to create a simple way of assessing students’ progress so that ‘no child is left behind’ evolved into an enormous state-mandated behemoth.
Florida, for example, increased the amount of time and effort spent on testing and assessment to such an extent that it looks like the entire state is suffering from an especially hard case of Obsessive-Compulsive disorder. Tests are held more often there, and they are tougher than in the rest of the country – recent statistics show that out of 180-day school year most schools spend from 60 to 80 days on standardized testing, with some schools holding tests on biweekly basis. Just think about it: from a third to almost a half of the time children spend in school they spend assessing their progress via testing instead of, well, making any progress.
It seems, however, that teachers, parents and children have all reached their boiling points: Florida joined the nationwide protest against rampant testing, decreasing the number of mandatory exams, repealing graduation test requirements and postponing the consequences of Common Core Testing.
This decision didn’t come suddenly: parents have been for some time complaining that their children suffer from nervous breakdowns, are afraid to go to school, have to resort to anti-depressants to get through a common day at school, that they spend an inordinate amount of time taking tests and preparing for them instead of learning.
However, the government didn’t make things easier for them in the last few years. School districts were obligated to write their own exams but weren’t financed to do so, which resulted in them lagging behind. And the last straw was probably a rather recent decision to make it mandatory to take tests on computers – again, without providing the necessary money to supply schools with enough computers and technology help.
As of now, schools don’t have enough computers for children to take tests simultaneously, which means that the whole process is stretched out, with some kids doing their tests while the rest have to wait for their turn doing nothing.
The result is that parents and teachers have temporarily forgotten their racial, religious and ideological differences and formed a united front against testing which turned into an end in itself. Teachers refuse to give state-ordered tests, schools try to opt out of them, parents join protests.
Everybody seems to agree that testing, at least in its current form, is a horrible idea. Not only because it wrecks children’s emotional well-being – let’s be honest, kids are always complaining that school is too hard – but because it is simply a waste of time, resources and effort that can be used with much greater results elsewhere. By taking tests children learn nothing but how to take tests; the state will do everyone a world of good if it ceases to be obsessed with control for a little bit.