pressure

Test Anxiety

THE SO-CALLED “accountability movement” has been a bipartisan movement; virtually no one is proposing that we cut back on standardized tests. They’ve come to dominate school for children and teachers, and they’ve narrowed the curriculum. They’ve caused people to feel pressure to cheat. While standardized tests have been emphasized less in schools where children are highly affluent—those children still get an enriched curriculum—children in schools that are poor get a heavily test-prep curriculum that’s not very enticing.

At a higher level, standardized tests are at the core of the test-and-punish philosophy of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). All the punishments are based on test scores; whether it’s identifying failing schools and closing them if their scores are too low or giving teachers poor evaluations, and maybe firing them, based on student test scores—or whether it’s the very draconian ways of dealing with the bottom 5 percent of schools in the NCLB waivers and Race to the Top grants, as Education Secretary Arne Duncan proposes.

High-stakes testing is at the core of what’s wrong with where we’re headed. Because the stakes are so high, they’ve caused a narrowing of the curriculum. The tests required for NCLB are basic reading and math. They don’t test social studies or the arts. Because the scores matter so much, they’re driving policy all around it.

We know that student tests aren’t designed to evaluate their teachers. Teaching is a hugely complicated endeavor of connection between students and teachers, and test scores may not reflect what’s happening there and the benefits.

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SURVEY: Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

Kids these days experience a lot of pressure, especially from the onslaught of standardized tests in public schools. Test Anxiety by Jan Resseger in the September-October 2012 issue of Sojourners explains how test scores have become an inefficient way to identify failing schools, measure teacher performance, or assess students’ educational development. And yet, standardized tests are all the rage in public education.

Take five minutes and see if you can make the grade by completing this multiple-choice test based on actual fifth-grade level questions. Don’t worry about recalling history lessons, employing scientific knowledge, or using your artistic intellect. Just like today’s standardized exams taken by children across the country, this test measures your “intelligence” by evaluating only math and reading skills.

And remember, there is no cheating—or googling—allowed. If all else fails, the answer is always C, right?

UPDATE: We have exceeded our limit of survey responses. This test is now closed -- thank you for your interest!

Elaina Ramsey is assistant editor of Sojourners.

Image: Quiz Time, Lisa F. Young / Shutterstock.com

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'Study Drugs' Point to Greater Social Failure

Pill photo, Jakub Pavlinec / Shutterstock.com
Pill photo, Jakub Pavlinec / Shutterstock.com

Are we subjecting our children to a perpetually overstimulating environment? Quite possibly. Are we expecting superhuman results from them at critical points in their development when they may lack the critical judgment skills to resist such monumental pressure? Based on the epidemic now rampant in our high schools and colleges, I’d say yes.

I wrote recently about the moral questionability of the student loan system, and further, the culture of pressuring kids into college straight from high school as a necessary rite of passage, regardless of capacity to pay for it or understanding of what they need from it. But beyond urging them to mortgage a large chunk of their futures away, it seems we’re compromising their health and perhaps mental well-being for the sake of some horse race that may or may not actually be real or necessary.

What’s worse, it seems we’re harvesting a generation of addicts, placing results ahead of happiness, and certainly ahead of service, community or God.

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