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The Effects of Overemphasis on Standardized Testing

The No Child left Behind state mandated standardized tests, like the California elementary acheivement test STAR, are changinf the way writing is taught and learned.

natasha dorman

on 13 May 2010

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Transcript of The Effects of Overemphasis on Standardized Testing

History of No Child Left Behind In 2001 No Child Left Behind is passed, and
California standards tests are added to the STAR program in English, Language Arts, and Mathematics for grades 2-11 (Bush). Effects of STAR Testing on Teaching

Having such a structured school environment hinders the way kids are taught, especially with writing because kids have short attention spans to begin with, so making them do the same boring essay format over and over causes them to not only learn just one genre of writing, which is formal essay, but it is also bound to cause them to just stop paying attention and not even learn anything at all.

The Standardized Testing And Reporting (STAR) test is the NCLB California state mandated yearly acheivement test for elementary students grades 2-11 "NCLB is the latest federal legislation that enacts the theories of standards-based education reform, which is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if those states are to receive federal funding for schools." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NCLB http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/documents/rtqgr2ela.pdf Immense pressure is placed on teachers due to the correlation between goverment funding and getting good test scores.

This pressure often leads to a "teaching to the test" mentality, meaning teachers are so concerned with students doing well on the STAR tests that they base their yearly curriculum on whatever the kids are going to be tested on. Having a cookie cutter follow-the-test classroom can and often does lead to a dull and monotonous environment that is too structured.

Such narrow writing standards on the test and the demand for high test scores means teachers put an overemphasis on these formal types of writing, and they often do not focus on any other kind of genre of writing, like creative writing or poetry.

When kids are taught to write in a specific style and format, they learn how to follow directions and they do not get to learn how to write to communicate or to express feeling.
Therefore, tests mandated by NCLB, like the STAR test, hinder the way writing is taught and learned. Effects of Overemphasis on Standardized Testing Effects of STAR Testing on Students In the artcile, "Keep Your Eye on Texas and California: A Look at Testing, School Reform, No Child Left Behind, and Implications for Students of Color," the author, Tonia Bush, writes, "As a result of the heavy reliance on such accountability measures, districts have placed an increased focus on standards-based instruction, including the adoption of standards-based textbooks." Due to the damanding standards of the NCLB acheivement tests for elementary students, teachers are accomadating their curriculum, and therefore the kids are missing out on a rich and creative environment.

On pg. 334 of Tonia Bush's, "A Look at Testing," about california teachers, it states, "Many teachers feel that they have to sacrifice student creativity and interests by teaching test-taking strategies within a test-oriented curriculum that arguably does not challenge students, possess culturally relevancy to students, extend student thinking, or enhance their learning experiences." The teachers say they are, "torn between satisfying bureaucratic requirements and meeting the needs of their students."
When teachers give up on teaching kids writing in fun, meaningful and creative ways, then all kids will learn is how to follow guidelines and rules.
When instead, they should learn to write freely and creatively to express themselves.

In "The Pros and Cons of the No Child Left Behind Act," written by Deborah white, she states, "Teachers and parents charge that NCLB encourages, and rewards, teaching children to score well on the test, rather than teaching with a primary goal of learning. As a result, teachers are pressured to teach a narrow set of test-taking skills and a test-limited range of knowledge. " Lack of variety in writing styles is infringing on kids' education because the same repetitive task over and again just becomes boring work instead of something fun and useful for the kids.

In the article, "Teaching to the Test," Louis volante writes, "Faced with increasing pressure from politicians, school district personnel, administrators, and the public, some teachers have begun to employ test preparation practices that are clearly not in the best interest of children."
"These activities may include relentless drilling on test content, eliminating important curricular content not covered by the test, and providing interminably long practice session that incorporates actual items from these high-stakes standardized tests."

Since the standardized test has a narrow writing genre and causes most teachers to be so stressed about reaching those standards, they leave all creativity out of the writing process when teaching.

The writing standards for the STAR test are:
Word Analysis
Reading Comprehension
Literary Response and Analysis
Writing Strategies
Written Conventions
Articles we have read in the CO for class also reveal how impeding the standardized test have become on kids' education, especially when it comes to the way they are taught and learn writing.
For example the article, “This is Just Like the Real Test” by Linda Pearlstein also talks about the effects that the end of the year standardized achievement tests have on the way kids learn. These elementary students learn hardly anything because the teacher is so focused on fitting in all the information for the test that the teacher loses sight of what is important. Though she said, “it makes me sick what these kids have to go through everyday. It goes against everything I learned in school,” she continues to teach to the test and dismiss the kids when they do not understand the material. The teacher starts to get stressed by the standardized testing demands and resents the students for not knowing all the material they need to know for the test when it is in no way their fault. She tells them maybe they should “just fail third grade” so it would be easier for them the next time around Conclusion With the demands of NCLB, the way children learn writing has changed dramtically. In california specifically, either teachers change their desired curriculum and teaching styles to give into the demands of the STAR test, or they ignore the ridiculous demands of the test and lose out on funding for the school because their students could potentially fail the test making the kids look less smart than they truly are.
The disadvantage of the STAR test is that it does not even measure how smart the kids are or even how well they can write. Learning to write in preparation for the acheivement test only teaches children how to fill in the blanks of an essay, it does not prepare them to use writing as a device to express themselves or to communicate with others in a meaningful and creative way. If there is no getting rid of the STAR tests then questions on the test should be more age appropriate, more challenging, and creative writing genres need to be incorporated. The real issue though, is reaching out to teachers to legitimately think about their students and to stray away from teaching to the test because these standardized acheivement tests are not good measurements of what children know. Teachers need to learn how to teach their curriculum in enriching ways for their students and also touch on the basics of the tests. There needs to be a change because the amount of funding a school gets should not be based on test scores. It is normally the lower income schools who do badly on the tests, but they are the schools that need the money! It's such a vicious cycle, and it is truly unfair to the children and their education. We need to go back to a time when teaching was solely about the importance of kids getting a good education. In the same article by Perlstein
. They learn by the BATS “borrow from the question, answer the question, use text support, and stretch” (Perlstein 87). The BATS format is the only way the children learn to write, which is helpful for writing their standardized essay answers but does not teach them anything substantial, it does not teach them how to pull from their thoughts and emotions to deliver on paper, they are not taught to express themselves through writing, which is what writing is for. They memorize their BATS format and do not learn any other useful genres of writing, and when it comes to the end of the year test, the still do not do well in writing because they think too much about the structure of their words. The children also kept asking the teacher if what they wrote was “right.” Works Cited Bush, Tonia. Keep Your Eye on Texas and California: A Look at Testing, School Reform, No Child Left Behind, and Implications for Students of Color. The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 74, No. 4. 2005. pp. 332-343

Deubel, Patricia. "The Journal." Accountability, Yes. Teaching to the Test, No. (2008): 1. Web. 7 May 2010. <http://thejournal.com/articles/2008/04/10/accountability-yes-teaching-to-the-test-no.aspx>.

"How Standardized Testing Damages Education." 20 Aug. 2007: 1. Web. 6 May 2010. <http://www.fairtest.org/facts/howharm.htm>.

"No Child Left Behind Act." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NCLB>.

Perlstein, Linda. "“This Is Just Like the Real Test.” Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade". Print. New York: Henry Holt, (2007): 85.

Posner, Dave. What's Wrong with Teaching to the Test? 85 (2004): 1. Web. 8 May 2010. <http://http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=LmML1Q6nn9rLj1C1Pd8N0nJjWD1SkHy7sc6yJNk8ptNtpsMMfJTL!601689703!-129296667?docId=5006720291>.

Volante, Louis. "Teaching To the Test: What Every Educator and Policy-maker Should Know." Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy. CJEAP . 2004.

Weir, Laila. "The Edutopia Poll." What Works in Education: 1. Web. 9 May 2010. <http://www.edutopia.org/poll-teacher-accountability-standardized-testing>.

Wright, W. E. "The effects of high stakes testing in an inner-city elementary school: The curriculum, the teachers, and the English language learners." Current Issues in Education. 2005.

"2003 Through 2008 CST Released Test Questions." California Department of Education. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. <http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/css05rtq.asp>.
(with examples from research) (with examples from research) http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/documents/cstrtqela2.pdf

There are examples of STAR test questions on this website, I specifically looked at 2nd grade, although there are sample questions from grades 2-11. I have attached the link so that the questions are available to anyone who is curious to see for themselves. For second grade, the questions are indeed either "tricky" and vague or the questions are way to simple for kids to be practicing all year. Fore example in the language arts section on page seven, a lot of the questions sounded like this: "
A. wait
B. guide
C. hear
D. hi
In the language arts sections, students also have to read a story and answer questions afterward. One example was a story of planting flowers, and the questions went as follows:
Why should the jar be made of glass?A:You can use a glass jar again later.B:Glass is heavy, so the jar will not tip over.C The glass will keep the roots warm.D Glass is clear, so you can see the roots through it.
These questions are confusing and to be honest, seem like a complete waste of time, especially if teachers are focusing most of the school year on non challenging concepts like these that could be learned maximum two days.
"Opponents of this so-called high-stakes testing complain that such intense pressure causes teachers to devote virtually all classroom time and resources to preparing students for the standardized test. This phenomenon is called "teaching to the test" "(Posner). "The kinds of problems that can appear on a standardized test are, of course, quite limited in form and complexity, as the student is allocated only a minute or two to complete each one. If the intellectual processes required to solve a really complicated problem are not essentially the same as those required to solve these simpler problems, then a student prepared only to solve standardized test problems could well lack the mental preparation required to attack really hard problems. Part of my concern about this matter is that routine problems are the most amenable to solution by computer. Thus individuals equipped only with the ability to solve routine problems would be those most vulnerable to displacement by automation" (Posner). "On a standardized test, all the data necessary to analyze a problem must be presented along with the problem. (Students are strongly discouraged from doing research during the test!) In contrast, for real problems, the necessary data for such an analysis are often either nonexistent, hidden, or questionable because they emanate from highly biased and conflicting sources" (Posner). "For multiple-choice tests, "teaching to the test" means focusing on the content that will be on the test, sometimes even drilling on test items, and using the format of the test as a basis for teaching. Since this kind of teaching to the test leads primarily to improved test-taking skills, increases in test scores do not necessarily mean improvement in real academic performance. Teaching to the test also narrows the curriculum, forcing teachers and students to concentrate on memorization of isolated facts, instead of developing fundamental and higher order abilities. For example, multiple-choice writing tests are really copy-editing tests, which do not measure the ability to organize or communicate ideas. Practicing on tests or test-like exercises is not how to learn even the mechanics of English, much less how to write like a writer" (Fairtest). Fairtest.com discusses other methods to assessing academic acheivement and growth, which is actually heavily relied on the teacher. Afterall, aren't teachers the ones who genuinely know the progress of their own students throughout the year?
"Better methods of evaluating student needs and progress already exist. Good observational checklists used by trained teachers are more helpful than any screening test. Assessment based on student performance on real learning tasks is more useful and accurate for measuring achievement - and provides more information - than multiple-choice achievement tests" (Fairtest). In an artcile about teaching to the test, author Patricia Deubel, states, "There is little doubt in educators' minds that the current system mandated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has contributed to problems. Students are caught in the middle. In some cases, teachers voice fears about losing their jobs, if their students don't perform well on those standardized tests. Unfortunately, such testing has become synonymous with NCLB. The consequence: What gets left behind in key decision making are the "day-to-day classroom assessments, which represent 99.9 percent of the assessments in a student's school life" (Debuel). On an artciel aboutwhat works in education, Laila Weir, talks about predictions for the future when it comes to standardized tests, "With the push to hold schools responsible for student achievement (or, as others put it, to hold them responsible for student performance on standardized tests), some educators have noted a decline in teaching untested skills. In his first education speech, presented to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, President Obama affirmed that he will tie school funding to results. He stated that the focus on accountability should expand, and that teachers should be increasingly penalized -- or rewarded -- for their students' performance. At the same time, though, the president seemed to push for a broader definition of success, calling for "assessments that don't simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st-century skills like problem solving and critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and creativity" (Weir). The fact that Obama wants to push for a "broader definition of success" is a step in the right direction as far as "fixing the test" goes, but ultimately there needs to be a bigger change because teachers will continue to teach to the test, which means other genres of writing and other curriculum are still going to be left out of the classroom. It is clear these tests are not a good measurement of how smart children are or how much they have learned! I support the idea of having teachers document their students' success.
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