Target: United States Department of Education
Goal: Replace standardized testing with teaching methods that allow children to use and engage with learning materials
In America today, standardized testing is one of the largest determining factors of student intelligence. The strong emphasis on multiple choice tests has arguably suppressed otherwise intelligent students who do not effectively retain information through readings and lectures. In addition, our current education system does not successfully teach students information in a manner that allows them to retain it long-term. Urge our Department of Education to replace standardized testing in America with performance-based assessments that allow students to better retain information and think critically.
While most Americans agree that the simplistic manner of standardized testing does not adequately measure a student’s overall intelligence, today’s problem is finding adequate replacements for these tests. Multiple choice measures are convenient because they test a large quantity of students in a short amount of time. Projects, papers, and presentations are time consuming for both teachers and students, while standardized testing removes the bias of opinion, allegedly leaving only the facts to determine a student’s academic worth.
Students, however, learn in a variety of ways, and many studies have shown that readings and lectures are the most ineffective methods for retaining knowledge. It is pointless to memorize and regurgitate information if that information is lost a month later. Today’s students are being spoon-fed knowledge, and the ones who excel are the ones who can best memorize the most in the short-term. Creative thinkers, daydreamers, and innovators are ignored in the education system because their test results are too often mediocre at best, yet these are some of society’s brightest thinkers.
Rather than rewarding short-term memorization, our education system should emphasize the importance of retaining knowledge instead. In regards to higher education, it is unimportant for colleges to know which students can best memorize and regurgitate, but rather they should choose those who have illustrated procedural and declarative knowledge. Short-term memorizers are more than capable of thinking critically, but sadly they are not encouraged to do so. Students learn and understand best when they teach or use information immediately upon gaining it because they are enabled to engage with material, make mistakes, correct mistakes, and learn from them. Standardized tests accomplish none of these.
Middle and high school teachers are capable, and willing, to increase the prevalence of engaging presentations, group discussions, activities, book reports, visual demonstrations, and other performance-based assessments in the classroom. It is what many teachers enjoy most, and it is what students most benefit from. In the long-term, it is what allows students to think critically and move society forward.
To measure our youth based on their ability to memorize short-term knowledge is unfair. Ask our Department of Education to emphasize teaching methods that enable students to best retain information and improve critical thinking.
Dear United States Department of Education,
In the past few years, more and more teachers and parents have voiced their disapproval of standardized testing as a means to measure student intelligence. Because every student is different and learns in different ways, your department is certainly aware that multiple choice testing is problematic. Our present problem is finding alternative methods of testing that better measure student aptitude. I urge you to focus your efforts on performance-based assessments that enable students to best retain information instead.
Studies have shown that students retain the most information when they teach or immediately use the knowledge they gain. They benefit from participating in discussions, engaging in activities, creating reports, and making mistakes. Our society doesn’t need to know who can best memorize information; rather, we need to enable critical thinking and teach our students to be intelligent innovators. I urge you to phase out standardized testing in American schools and allow our teachers to do what they were trained to do — teach our students to learn in the classroom and perform well outside it.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr