The chosen topic of research is based in the area of education. Standardized tests are those exams set for every individual to answer similar questions. The tests can be in multiple-choice or open-ended questions. Scoring is done in a conventional manner whereby consistency is monitored to compare the performance of students. In Texas, standardized tests are provided to students exiting high school. The STAAR testing system is the standardized exam taken by all candidates completing their high school in Texas to enable them to prepare for post-secondary education (Gaddis 1). However, the aim of standardized testing for the students is not yielding the results as anticipated. The system is facing a backlash from different stakeholders. Understanding the negative impact of standardized testing in Texas requires exploring the subject to establish the views of teachers, parents, and schools. Instead of promoting the benefits of standardized testing, the STAAR testing system in Texas makes students and educators spend more time on its preparation, it is not adequately controlled, and the stakes of the exams are too high.
The STAAR Testing System in Texas
The standardized testing approach became operational in 2012 after the 2007 passing of the SB 1031 and 2009 HB 3 (Gaddis 1). The main aim of this standardized testing was to promote post-secondary readiness for learning in high school. The students who are not ready for tertiary level education have less chance of enrolling in higher education institutions. Those who register to the institutions without achieving the expected level of readiness risk not receiving their degree (Royster, Gross and Hochbein 208). The end-of-course (EOC) exams were to benefit students by assessing them on materials covered in the year of study. The students would take the tests individually, which means they are comprehensive and will assist the learners in mastering the subject matter. The students are assessed on the immediate material, essential skills, and knowledge in the state. Thus, the tests are final to reduce the time of examining candidates.
Too Much Time Wasted on the Standardized Testing
There are specific numbers of exams that all students in the education system should take in Texas. For instance, learners in grade eight, are required to take four examinations within a year. However, for those completing high school, they are required to complete five EOC tests in one year with every review given four hours (Gaddis 1). Twenty hours of testing each year are what high school students should be given. However, the benchmark exams are what many teachers concentrate on administering to students to prepare them for passing the standardized tests at the final examinations.
Nelson (3) stated that students exiting high school usually end up spending sixty to over one hundred and ten hours in one year in standardized test preparations. The state does not need students tested on the benchmark exams. However, local districts in Texas allow teachers to administer the examinations to students as many as possible as reliance for passing the standardized testing. The effect is that students will fail to learn some of the required courses or use the time to study other main course subjects to do the benchmark tests (Gaddis 1). Therefore, the local decision of over-reliance on standardized testing deprives students of quality instructional time, and policies are needed to regulate the regional districts of allowing the provision of the highest diagnostic system to students. Students cover less in the classroom than what is expected in the curriculum at the end of the year.
The aspect of spending too much time testing students is costly for educators are parents. Nelson (1) explained that many teachers understand from experience, parents learn the effectiveness of education based on the children's reactions while the students have the first-hand feeling of the standardized testing. The frequent examinations given to prepare students for the final STAAR tests in Texas are spiraling out of control for students, parents, and teachers. The costs are high for the schools and parents feel that such expenses are highly unacceptable. The tests are also taking an educational toll on learners, schools, educators, and principals. The total testing costs in terms of financial and time wasted do not reflect the returns on students. Learners do not obtain critical thinking, problem-solving, content, and persistence needed for one to be successful in life (Nelson 24). Instead of providing answers to the needs of learners and their future growth, standardized tests are becoming inhospitable to the abilities, skills and knowledge aspired for developing students.
The Stakes of Standardized Testing in Texas is HighInitially, before the implementation of the STAAR testing system in the Texas education system, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) was used as the standardized test for grades 3 to 8 and 9 to 11. The TAKS assessed learners on writing, social, math, reading, and science skills necessary as per the Texas education standards (Jiang, Ishdorj, and Dudensing 6). After the enactment of HB 3, student readiness for college was impacted as the STAAR testing system sets higher expectations for students than before. The STAAR is noted to work better than TAKS by helping learned in preparation for higher learning education. The highly challenging assessment content levels of EOC pass rates in math and English has led to a drastic drop in the performance of students in those subjects since the STAAR tests began to be administered (Jiang at al. 16). These are demotivating results for educators, students, and parents.
Parents gauged their students' college readiness with state exams. However, the high expectations set by the STAAR pass rates in math and English bring about confusion on whether the learned are ready for college. Those who do not pass the standardized tests do not graduate from high school. Gaddis (1) argued that high schools have continually failed to produce students that are prepared for job training or higher learning institutions. There is a need for taking measures to address the problem of schools that are not meeting the college-level preparedness for students. The pressure put on students is too much with the SB 1031 requiring EOC tests to form 15% of the course grade. One would say that the STAAR standardized tests are stressful more when compared to college final examinations or other challenges that the students will face in life. Even though the stakes of the STAAR testing system are high, the effect is that there are high chances of failing to prepare students for facing the real world after high school.
Local or State Control of STAAR Tests
According to Jiang et al. (15), college readiness for high school students is highly determined by teachers at the local districts. Putting a universal state test for all students means that it will put some of the students at an advantage. The STAAR testing program does not consider students with disabilities. Therefore, testing such students on a state-level examination means that the government assumes equality for an opportunity for every child. Gaddis (1) explained that state standardized assessments are not essential as local teachers can design exams that cover the course material. Even though the EOC exams count for 15% of the course grade, the school districts still take 85% control of the grading regulations in high school. That is the reason educators are giving more tests to students and spending less instructional time. Reasonable time taken doing tests for students exiting high school should be determined and set as sound policy.
In conclusion, the STAAR testing system in Texas was implemented with the best objectives in place. However, the adverse effects are compromising the effectiveness of the standardized tests given to students exiting from high school. The wastage of instructional time, high expectations of STAAR tests, and lack of appropriate control at local districts are adverse effects compromising the efficiency of standardized testing in Texas. Better policies need to be put in place to address the problem brought about by the state tests and allow equal opportunities for all students getting ready for college.
Gaddis, Gay. "The truth about standardized testing In Texas." Texas Business Leadership Council. 2019 http://www.txblc.org/research/the-truth-about-standardized-testing-in-texas/ Accessed 18 July 2019
Jiang, Meng, Ishdorj Arun., and Dudensing Rebekka. How standardized testing affects students' college readiness in Texas. Agricultural & Applied Economics Association Annual Meeting, Washington D.C., Aug 5-Aug 7. 2018. https://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/274492/files/Abstracts_18_05_23_14_43_59_86__50_24_103_155_0.pdf Accessed 18 July 2019
Nelson, Howard. Testing more, teaching less: What America's obsession with student testing costs in money and lost instructional time. American Federation of Teachers. 2013. https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/news/testingmore2013.pdf Accessed 18 July 2019
Royster, Pamela, Gross Jacob, and Hochbein Craig. "Timing is everything: Getting students back on track to college readiness in high school." The High School Journal, vol.98, 2015, pp. 208-225.
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