Testing the limits

Student and staff share opinions on the importance of state testing


Sophia Shannon

Awaiting assessment: Sophomore students wait outside a classroom to take a state-required English test.

Sophia Shannon, Writer

As the end of the school year approaches, so do the state tests that so many students must undergo. These tests provoke many differing opinions on the benefits and disadvantages of standardized assessments between the students who go through the testing, as well as the teachers who must prepare classes for them.

One controversial aspect of state tests is how it affects the curriculum during the rest of the year. Some teachers believe that the mandatory tests don’t affect what they teach very much.

Most of what is on the test is either already in the curriculum or can be figured using common sense,” John Moore, who teaches AP U.S. History, said. “I believe most of the social studies teachers sharpen their teaching of the primary documents in American history but we already do a good job of teaching these documents as is and students at Oakwood seem to be aware of constitutional ideas and principles.”

Others view the tests as a hindrance to their lesson plans.

“I do have to take a few days out of wrapping up my curriculum for the course and preparing students for the AP exam to prepare them for the AIR test,” Matt Deters, an AP Government teacher, said. “The College Board curriculum doesn’t completely align with the things they have them do on the state test. Sometimes it can be a little bit of a distraction or an afterthought for my AP students.”

There is also a question as to whether standardized tests are accurate reflections of what students have learned over the course of the year.

I don’t think testing is an accurate depiction of what we learned in class,” Peyton Martindale (10) said. “It’s not the end of the year yet, and we don’t study for state tests, we study for exams. I take these tests with a grain of salt, really.”

There are also the typical issues students face with exams that may not necessarily be possible to avoid in any testing situation.

“As with all assessments, some students will struggle because of the way the question is worded, because of test anxiety, or because they are better at other types of assessments than a standardized test,” Moore said.

However, the schedule during testing weeks give many students a welcome change.

“It keeps me laid back for that week,” Martindale said. “Once you’re done you can read and do extra homework, or if you don’t have a test you can sleep in. Classes are a lot shorter and most teachers give less homework and have us watch movies in class.”

Possibly one of the most controversial issues regarding standardized tests is the delegation of school funding based on test results. Schools whose test results are higher receive more government funding, whereas lower scores produce less funding. Unfortunately, there tends to be a pattern in relation to test scores and the district itself.

“The problem is that there are some correlations between student test scores and their socioeconomic status that would lead to even less money going to districts that could probably use the support,” Deters said. “It would be a situation where you have the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”

This cycle of scores and funding can continually affect the future quality of education.

“In theory, schools should be rewarded when students have learned the standards well,” Moore said. “In reality, there are so many other factors that result in a school district having poor test scores. We do a great job at Oakwood but we also know that students have opportunities here that students in some other districts don’t have.”

According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, students and parents alike have arranged and attended protests against “the increased use and misuse” of standardized tests all across the nation. Many are opposed to the reliance on state test scores and the movement has made progress even since 2017.

In the end, however, it is unlikely that these standardized tests are going anywhere.

“State testing was brought in all the way back in the early 1990s as a way to hold schools accountable for learning,” Moore said. “It’s not going away. Accountability is important.”