By Jonathan Gonzalez
State testing is a method by which students are assessed and analyzed; it also provides a form of record keeping for the student’s academic progression.
The information that a standardized test is supposed to produce is information that pertains to what strategies are working and where they have been proven to work. That information is analyzed and used to form strategies to implement in the areas where students have graded lower, so that all students can be impacted in a positive way which will improve their academic achievement in the areas of English Language Arts and Mathematics. This is the reason the state puts forth to control the way students are evaluated, but an underlying benefit, for them, is that they can use this information to hold schools, teachers, and support staff accountable for the students who are “underperforming.”
As it stands, the test is focused on a student’s ability to memorize, recall, and regurgitate the information they have learned thus far. It completely skips over the most important aspect of a child’s learning; the ability to implement and apply the strategies they have learned to real world problems. The test is also under scrutiny because it has no way to take into account how the different socio-economic statuses, or access to resources, affect the child. There are many factors that go into a student’s ability to perform during an exam. The pressures that are being placed on children to get them to do good on a test, are ones that aren’t part of their daily/weekly assessment routines. So, why does the state feel that forcing a child to regurgitate all the information they have learned, in a matter of about two hours, would provide an accurate reading of how the child is doing academically?
Along with the pressures to perform well for their own sake, children are being pushed to do well so that the school they attend can look better overall and hopefully attract more parents to enroll their child in said school the following year. The test eventually becomes a method by which parents use to find the schools that their children will attend. As stated by Rainesford Alexandra in her article “The Business of Standardized Testing.” “Turns out, academic conformity sells, and business is booming: As of 2011, Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board, nonprofit owner of SAT, was paid $1.3 million. Richard Ferguson, former executive officer of ACT Inc., made roughly $1.1 million. Meanwhile, The National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy at Boston College reported that the value of the standardized testing market was anywhere between $400 million and $700 million.” Schools that perform better take in more students the following year, which means they will have a bigger budget the following year. This in turn means that schools that perform poorly, have less students attend the following year, which leads to a smaller budget.
So where does this leave Chicana/o/x and other communities that are ridden with low socio-economic statuses that do not have the access to the resources that would make their communities do better on state exams? It creates conditions for schools to market themselves outside the language of high scores which in the long run could fail students and regulate them to specific social tracks. Instead, they must both push their students to do well on the exams using the limited resources that they have while trying out different programs that attempt to improve their schools. Unlike schools that score well, they have to rely on making their school look appealing through the implementation of a variety of extracurricular activities. This also means that they are constantly changing teaching strategies to increase their scores. Changing teaching strategies includes changing environments and materials. This is not just a big change for the students, but for the teaching staff as well which does not promote a sense of continuity. This constant changing only leaves the school with an abundance of problems and a lack of solutions.
Unfortunately, the state test is more of a reflection of how our society is currently viewed in the sense that the rich stay rich while the poor get poorer. The state test is nothing more than a business model that allows this to happen, as it does not provide an accurate measure by which we can gauge our student’s academic progress. A new method of assessment is needed; one that is able to provide us with the information of how our future leaders are applying the skills they are learning to real world scenarios. Until this new method comes into fruition, low socio-economic communities are forced to claw, scratch, and work tirelessly to try and climb out of the deep economic hole that the state test has created.