Standardized Testing Too Much Pressure?

I feel that too much emphasis is put on standardized testing in my child's fourth grade classroom. The teachers put a lot of pressure on the children, and have asked us to review each night until test time. My daughter is not a good test taker and seems very nervous. Is the school putting too much pressure on these students?

Question:

Standardized testing is one of those areas in education where people just can't seem to agree. On the positive end of it, standardized tests have concrete results -- a number or percentile that people can understand. On the other hand, there are so many factors that skew these results that one can't be sure how reliable they are. Still, test scores are valued because they are tangible and easily communicated to parents and the community.

Recently, test scores have taken on even more importance in education. Some states use them to identify gifted students. Some state governments, such as California, are using standardized test scores to discern whether teachers and schools are effective.

The end result may be that some states are putting pressure on the schools and the teachers to get the children to "perform" at an acceptable level. In response, teachers may ask parents to support them in preparing students for the tests by working on material review and test-taking skills.

Do I agree with this? Not really. The emphasis on the importance and value of the tests results have increased, so teachers feel more pressured to spend large amounts of classroom time on test preparation. Of course, teachers also need to fit in the standard curriculum, so homework becomes another way in which kids can prepare for the test.

Since this test is a measure of your child's educational progress, it would be helpful for you to work with her on test-taking skills and concepts covered on the test. Her anxiety about the test may be relieved somewhat after continued exposure to the material and format. Teaching her hints, such as eliminating answers that don't make sense, will help her feel more confident and secure about the test.

The principle of this whole scenario, the importance of the test results, may not be agreeable to you. If you feel that your child is being put into an uncomfortable situation unnecessarily because of the importance placed on this test, share your opinion with those who can do something to change it. Contact school board members, state legislators, and the Department of Education in your state with your opinion. These groups encourage feedback from parents, so your comments will be welcome, even if it is a dissenting opinion.

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