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Tests take a tough toll on students

Bianca Fairchild, Reporter

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On average, students in the United States take about 113 standardized tests during the time between kindergarten and twelfth grade, according to PBS and NPR. This takes up about 2.3 percent of a student’s class time in a single school year, according to Seattle Times. This may not sound like much, but that’s actually over a 1,000 minutes every year dedicated to test taking.

In 2016, Obama put a cap in place so that schools could only use 2 percent of class time dedicated to standardized test taking. (President Trump has yet to make changes to this so far). The problem with this is that this is not only affecting the learning of American students because of how much time it is taking up, but also the students’ mental health and the environment in a school.

Standardized tests affect a student’s confidence and drive to learn. In the American Education system, we (the students) are often judged based almost or entirely on our grades and test scores. A student who scores poorly on a standardized test may then assume that they are unintelligent, or didn’t and will never do enough to do better. “I think certain kinds of testing like quizzes is good, but one big test over everything isn’t going to help anyone at all,” Shandria Gillman (11) said when asked if she thinks if testing benefits students.

Gillman isn’t the only student who feels this way. “I’ve seen that students do better when it’s not a score that they’re based on, they actually learn more when they’re being taught rather than when there is a repercussion for doing bad,” Christopher Kidd (10) said. Lack of confidence and stress because of testing could turn into serious self-esteem issues, depression, anxiety, insomnia, upset stomach, headaches, and other stress-induced or insecurity symptoms.

An interview with District Superintendent George Boland helped me understand how much money we actually spend on testing. He explained to me that the state does provide some of the resources for testing, but the schools are responsible for the technology and proctors for the tests. Boland explained to me that for the Idaho Reading Indicator, which is only for students in kindergarten through third grade, we spend about $8,000 for proctors in each administration. This totals about $30,000 on just the people to watch student’s take the test, and that’s just for three grades!

I also asked Boland if he thought that tests like the SAT or ISAT benefit students, and he said, “Tests like the PSAT or SAT give students an indication of whether or not they are college and career ready, so students take them more seriously [compared to the ISAT]. There is some benefit there because they’re relevant. Whereas the ISAT, probably not so much.”

So even though he acknowledged the ISAT is not as beneficial to students, we still have to take it, mainly because teachers’ evaluations are partly factored by student scores. This is completely unfair; how a student performs on a test that isn’t beneficial to him doesn’t accurately measure a teacher’s job performance. All students are different, and all students learn and test differently. So, why do we take a test that doesn’t do much for our students since they’re not taken seriously and have little weight on our education, especially since they cost so much? That is unclear.

Tests like the ISAT can affect a student’s desire for learning and confidence. If test taking costs so much, why do we do it? There are alternatives to taking standardized tests, but it looks like the school system here in Idaho will make no changes to get rid of standardized tests any time soon.


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Tests take a tough toll on students