Hey, SMSD. It’s Me Again.

An opinion on standardized testing

Alex Ralston

Listen, SMSD. I know we’ve had our differences at times. We’ve rubbed arms and grated each other’s nerves for the past year or so, and it’s changed our relationship dynamic. And I’m sorry about that. But let’s just take a minute here and be honest: the system hasn’t been working. Everybody knows it at this point. And I, with my moral obligations, can’t tip toe around the issue anymore. Standardization and regulation have failed us, and that fact can’t be ignored anymore.

Before I really get into it, I’d like to say sorry for using you as a scapegoat figure. You’re really just representative of the system at large, and criticizing you is kind of like blaming the president for a congressional error. But it’s time we start looking at this whole standardized testing and Common Core thing with open eyes, trying to understand the real problems at play. Why aren’t these things working?

Well, to start —

This isn’t going well. I can’t think straight. I stayed up way too late the past couple nights preparing for tests on top of tests that happened to pop up during AP week. And it has drained me completely.

The problem here is the pressure that comes with test taking. Students are trained to (and rightfully so) to believe that their future will be majorly impacted by standardized test scores. High schoolers dedicate whole semesters to test preparation, and some take multiple stabs at the tests in hope of raising that number. Get the 24 to a 28. Get the 28 to a 32. Get the 32 to a 35. The amount of stress that comes with those exams really takes its toll on the student’s mental health. Students get sick, have mental breakdowns, develop anxiety — some tests even have provisions for students vomiting on the answer sheet. Is it really any wonder why high schoolers hate standardized testing?

The next thing is that there haven’t even —

Holy cow. I need to sleep. But there’s the Biology AP test tomorrow.

*phone buzz* “New Message: im so gonna fail this test. lmao i hate the school system”

— There haven’t even been real results. The events that prompted the standardized testing frenzy were all related to foreign competition. The United States ranked 28 on the list of countries with the best educational systems. But since then, it’s been found that our success in the education sector has actually slightly worsened. No Child Left Behind and Common Core hadn’t affected our schools and students in a positive way.

*phone buzz* “New Message: how was the study session for english?”

“Me: not super good. i feel really unprepared rn. really worried about getting like a 2 lol”

Oh, shoot! The ACT is coming up soon. How am I even supposed to study for that when I have to worry about all my homework? I guess I’ll just take it until i get a good enough score.

And now, in Kansas, the government is scaling back funding for education. Common Core reigns. Students and schools are judged on a few assessments every year. Teachers and students struggle to prepare for the wide variety of tests and end up placing more stress on standardized testing than real learning. And all these efforts are apparently in vain.

*laptop notification* “New Email: ACT Scores Now Available*

Ouch. That is not what I wanted to see tonight. That’s worse than what I got on the PSAT. How am I supposed to get scholarships with those scores? Oh, well. Better get back to working on the AP prep packet(s).

*phone buzz* “New Message: when u fail all ur tests [gif of skateboarder wiping out]*

So, I propose something. Can we not shame students when they speak up against the current system? Can we please take this problem seriously? The system hasn’t worked well in over 15 years. We need to dedicate ourselves to reforming education and not tip toe around the issue any longer.