Testing has created a generation of burnt out zombies. Students are told to memorize and then regurgitate on a test. Testing typically had me memorize facts and recite them under stressful conditions. In every class, the question of using notes on the test was brought up. However most teacher answered no and gave the excuse that one would not want a doctor operating on them who needed notes to pass a test. I remember this excuse never made sense. I would alway counter argue stating that I hope my doctor has access to information during the operating room in case something goes wrong. But teachers never appreciated this rebuttal. In my opinion, anything that is worth memorizing is worth looking up.
Wagner discusses testing in today’s education. State accountability tests do not accurately reflect true abilities. In fact, the design of these tests automatically marginalizes particular students. The language in the test is specific to certain groups and if a student is not a member of that group they could miss the question due to cultural context. In college, I had an explicit experience that emphasized this fact. During an exam on American Sign Language, the teacher signed an unknown word. Almost every student was confused by this word and asked for clarification. But we were unable to receive clarification because it could jeopardize the results of the test. The test was designed in New York but was given in San Diego. The sign was for a Brownstone home. However, San Diego has an absence of brownstone homes and was not familiar to anyone living in the area. Now, this experience was a single word on one exam but it demonstrated how tests have cultural biases and if you are not part of that culture you can not pass their tests.
State testing has caused a shift in the way students are taught. Teachers during NCLB were held accountable for their student scores. Because of this fact, teachers started to focus instruction towards passing the test. This lead students to be ill prepared for college. Wagner listed several skills that most students are lacking when entering college. This includes being able to understand complex reading materials, ability to think analytically, necessary work and study habits, problem solving abilities, and abilities to research. These are all skills that require time and can not be tested on a standardized test. But with the emphasis on NCLB teachers were unable to focus instruction time to building these necessary skills. Wagner briefly discusses math and science classes. In these classes, content is a primary focus and students are left in a whirl of information. Because the amount of content knowledge required for these classes are high, students spend more time trying to digest enormous amount of content. Instead students should be using math and science to develop problem solving skills, writing skills, and analytical thinking.