No one is a fan of standardized testing. From parents, to teachers, to students, it seems that everyone has an unpleasant attitude towards them. A tremendous amount of pressure is put on students to not only perform well on these tests, but to outperform others. Academics have become less about learning and more about competition.
Take getting into college, for example. Standardized tests are one of the major deciding factors on whether or not students get into their dream college. I took the SATs this past Saturday, and the experience was certainly not enjoyable. Three and a half grueling hours of testing is not my cup of tea. On top of that, the results of this test could decide the path of my future. I have started taking these tests early to ensure I have plenty of time to retake them if my scores do not come out how I hoped. Regardless, the pressure from tests like the SAT and the ACT can be overwhelming.
Standardized testing is nothing new to me. As a Florida student, I have been taking the FCAT since the 3rd grade. This test has been used to decide my promotion from each grade level, and is even considered a graduation requirement. It is one thing to expect high school students to manage the pressures of standardized testing, but elementary school students are an entirely different story. It is unrealistic to expect a group of eighth graders to understand the ramifications of not doing well on these tests. To a child that young, the test can be viewed in one of two ways: it will either not be taken seriously, or will simply terrify the child. There is no reason for an elementary school student to ever regard school in that manner.
The academic system has become less about knowledge and learning, and more about simply being able to test well. Standardized testing is only one piece of evidence for the problem with our education system. I saw a story on the news recently that high school students today have the same stress level as mental hospital patients in the 1950s. Students are pushed to achieve high grades, which is a great thing. However, to achieve those grades, a student must go much further than paying attention in class and doing their homework. Straight A’s require students to have plenty of all-nighters spent pouring over textbooks trying to soak in information. Essays take hours upon hours to research and write. Studying takes hundreds of flashcards and highlighted notes. The struggle for good grades often ends in students crying from stress and lack of sleep.
On top of that, colleges expect high-school students to have had numerous extracurricular activities. From personal experience, I know just how hard it is to balance clubs, community service, and school. While this may all sound a bit over-dramatic, it is far from it. Each day I get to school and see students panicked over the test they have first period or the homework they did not understand. While some of the stress stems from procrastination, this is certainly not the case all of the time.
As school has come to an end and summer has begun, it has become clear to me just how much pressure our education system puts on students. Students who love learning come to hate school because it has become a system to crank out test-taking machines. The relief that summer brings is much appreciated, but a little less pressure during the school year would go a long way.