National Testing

Should the USA abandon national testing in schools? Or should testing be extended so that the federal government sets the same tests for every school?

National Testing
Yes because...

The order for a national test makes every district teach the same curriculum (set of courses). Each...

The order for a national test makes every district teach the same curriculum (set of courses). Each state and locality should be able to set its own curriculum - after all they pay 90% of the costs of schooling and local people elect officials to run school boards. In addition schools across the country are very different and should be able to make (democratic) decisions at the local level on what will be taught within their classrooms. Requiring national testing removes the traditional rights of localities to adapt to community values and desires when making curriculum decisions.

No because...

A national curriculum for most core subjects already exists without school boards and local communities even realising it. Most high school students are preparing for standard college entrance exams and so have to study what is needed to do well in these tests. Also, only a few textbook companies produce texts for high school students. When localities select one of these textbooks, they are, in effect, agreeing to what amounts to a national curriculum. Besides, students across the country should learn the same skills.

National Testing
Yes because...

Ordering national testing will result in teachers “teaching to the test”. Students will face days o...

Ordering national testing will result in teachers “teaching to the test”. Students will face days of learning how to take tests instead of learning skills and knowledge that will help them become good citizens and contribute in meaningful ways to society. They will become good test takers but will miss out on the joy of learning for learning’s sake. Subjects like art and music that are not covered on the standardised tests could be cut. Our children’s education would become narrowly focused on a yearly test.

No because...

As long as school boards and localities follow the national curriculum, student success on the test will follow. Drilling and “teaching to the test” happen only when schools decide to test without changing what and how they teach. Students certainly need to have certain basic skills and subject knowledge when they graduate. The National Assessment of Educational Progress and the state-developed assessments will check that this is in place. The school day allows plenty of time for students to learn the basics and still take part in additional activities and attend classes that go beyond the basics.

National Testing
Yes because...

Using a national test to check if schools and students are working oversimplifies education. Those ...

Using a national test to check if schools and students are working oversimplifies education. Those for national testing use terms that are more suitable for business, as if children were simply widgets coming out at the end of an assembly line. We hear talk of “setting objectives”, “getting results”, and “the bottom line” when talking about our nation’s children. We cannot let the unethical, corrupt, and profit-driven world of business take over our nation’s classrooms.

No because...

The entire reason that public education in America was founded was to develop a better workforce. Although education by itself is a great goal, most of all what we want for our children is for them to become successful adults who are able to earn a living when they graduate from high school or college. Focusing on phrases that may also be used in the business world is just a distraction, used by those against national testing to move the debate away from what really needs to happen in our nation’s schools.

National Testing
Yes because...

Using a national test to find out if students are learning things is unfair and will drive good teac...

Using a national test to find out if students are learning things is unfair and will drive good teachers out of our classrooms, making existing problems worse. Teaching Unions point out that their members are being judged on results, but these are affected more by the size of classes and the background of the students than by the ability of the teacher. A better option is a broad-based assessment, which looks at several measures of what a student has learned. Instead of testing a student on just one day, a multiple-measure assessment uses teacher evaluations, teacher-created tests, and student demonstrations that take place over the entire school year. This would especially benefit students who are not good test takers.

No because...

Of course unions want to protect their members. But in a society where education is so important to success, we must make sure our schools are doing well for our nation’s children. The most important reason for national standards and assessment is to make schools and teachers answerable for what goes on in the classroom. If schools and teachers are doing a good job, they have nothing to fear as we move to a national system of responsibility through assessment.

National Testing
Yes because...

The idea of national standards may seem like a good idea until you start to actually try to agree th...

The idea of national standards may seem like a good idea until you start to actually try to agree the standards that teachers must teach to. Agreeing what must be taught is difficult enough in a local setting; nationally such agreement is probably not achievable. Which historic figures should all students learn about? What parts of history are most important? Also, good standards are difficult to construct. Standards are either too vague so that the test-makers and teachers do not know what material to focus on, or they are too detailed so that teachers and students are swamped by the sheer number of subjects that must be covered.

No because...

Developing acceptable national standards is not easy, but other countries have demonstrated that creating good standard tests that inspire students and teachers is possible. Excellence is created by bringing together the right people, examining textbooks, and looking at standards already put in place by many national teachers’ associations. In the United States, the quality of education that students receive depends on what state, county, and town they live in. This breaks the principle of equality that is a key part of the values of our country. If all teachers are expected to achieve the same standards, the quality of education for all children can go up.

National Testing
Yes because...

The No Child Left Behind Act encourages states to “game the system”. Extra money only goes to state...

The No Child Left Behind Act encourages states to “game the system”. Extra money only goes to states which have a large share of their students reaching a “proficient” level in reading and maths. But the states themselves decide what this means. By setting the bar for “proficiency” in reading and maths low, they can claim that almost all their children reach a good standard - and so get the extra money. Not only is this dishonest, it does nothing to actually improve children’s education.

No because...

The Act is not perfect but the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) measures a sample of children in every state each year. By comparing their scores to the state’s test results it is obvious which states are actually improving and which are cheating the system and letting down their students. Parents who have this information will then push for real change. New federal policies will publish state scores next to NAEP results to make this comparison very easy.

National Testing
Yes because...

Fully national testing under federal control would actually lower standards. Handing down a standar...

Fully national testing under federal control would actually lower standards. Handing down a standard national test from the top is bound to end up with a “one-size-fits-all” result. States such as Arkansas and Massachussetts that have done the most to improve their school systems would actually end up with a dumbed-down test weaker than the local ones that are sat now. National standards could also become a political football, with each new administration changing the tests to suit their own values.

No because...

The No Child Left Behind Act has been President Bush’s main domestic success. The next President should build on this by bringing in truly national tests in a range of subjects. That way every child will sit the same papers and failing schools and states will have nowhere to hide. Truly national standards would also mean teacher training could be done better, and would make it easier for students who move from one state or district to another.



National Testing

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