This piece was written by Molly Risk.
All schools in Indiana that receive any form of federal funding are required to take the standardized test, ISTEP. The kids dread this time, and the teachers dread the preparation necessary for their students to do well. For weeks prior to the test, student listen as teachers continually prep them in their subjects, as well as tell them to get a good night sleep, eat well, and most importantly, not to schedule any appointments at this time! As they say, do your best on the ISTEP test!
Although it may be standardized, have you ever wondered if you could just not take the test at all? Not just because you hate it, though, but because there is truly no point.
ISTEP itself is used primarily to see how a school ranks against other schools in terms of test scores. The higher the average, the better they look, and the more money they receive from the state and federal funds. Not to mention the large banner of pride they can hang in their doorway stating that they are a Five Star School! Teachers are often judged based off of the test scores of their students, and these scores are a large factor in a complicated rubric of measurement.
For students, testing will help them if they either need assistance to keep up with grade level performances or if they are at a high achieving level and need to be challenged more. However, for the rest of the students, usually about 80% of them, these tests and the results mean nothing. Nothing. So for all of the hours spent studying and learning test methods, etc., it will not change the placement of their daily curriculum for the majority. I am just a freshman, and no expert in economics, but it seems to me that putting all children through the stress and frustration of these tests for 20% of the students does not seem right. It also does not seem that it should be the only way a school or a teacher is graded, or at least so heavily. Children are being used as test subjects for federal funding and, as a result, have lost a lot of passion for learning over the years.
Any teacher can tell you how stressful this time is, and it seems to be never-ending. After ISTEP ends, schools often move into one test after another. When do they actually learn what they really need to know? Isn’t one of the main goals of education, at least in the K-8 years, instilling a love of learning? How can you love to learn if you are learning testing methods all of the time? This has had a real impact in classroom curriculum, as the phrase “teach to the test” is more and more common. During these past few weeks, Facebook has been flooded with all kinds of notes from teachers to their student with the underlying sentiment of, “Good Luck! You are more than a test to me!”
As more parents realize this, they are taking their kids out of the tests. Lindy Thackston, a reporter at Fox News, says its not easy but it can be done. Administrators are worried that if too many kids opt out they will not have enough funding, as the participation rate is a factor. My mother actually pulled my younger brother out of ISTEP this year. He had to sit in the office for the duration. He told me it wasn’t fun but better than testing. My mom was called by the principal, who was very sympathetic to her plight, but informed her nonetheless of the school’s right to discipline my brother for not taking the test. She was grateful that they opted not to exercise their right due to insubordination of not taking the test.
Although my brother was pulled out of ISTEP last week, he has been taking the Cog-At all this week, and will proceed into the NWEA in a few short weeks as well, so he is still testing. This year, it was just my mother who pulled her child out of testing, but it is a start. Next year, maybe more will join.
Sources: Wane.com, Fox News, Washington Post