Tests That Cheat Students

By Abrahim Harb

Alfie Kohn makes a perfect point in this piece of literature and I wholeheartedly back-up what he feels should be changed in the schooling systems. Students should feel at ease and have fun—but not an extreme amount of it at school. For example, having these students from Virginia cram various aspects of social, political, and economical life in Virginia from the Reconstruction period to the twentieth century and then test them on it, seems to hinder the students from truly finding a discipline or career that interests these students that are being put under this rigorous curriculum.

Kohn makes it quite clear where he stands on this topic, and seems to fearlessly trample over the counterargument with his reasoning that is clear and to the point, without stopping to see the repercussions. Students will loose all sense of freedom when it comes to choosing a career they would like to pursue, if these intense mandated standards continue to exist. Even though students should be held accountable to have a certain level of knowledge, some students may not be interested in these certain topics that must be obtained. In return they do not give the subject the proper attention and remember the bare minimum which has a long term negative effect. Students may even have “brain farts” or may become nervous while testing, then when it comes down to the results it does not reflect there true knowledge. 

Through personal experience, I have learned that these mandated tests do not always reflect the student’s actual knowledge. My peers and I have often gotten nervous, felt uncomfortable, or even had the answer to a question on the very tip of our tongues. From my personal journey through school, as well as other students, we have often felt like we were left up a creek without a paddle, struggling to finish the standardized tests in the allocated time. Most adults and even teens can sympathize with these students in states such as New York City, Virginia who adhere to this policy strictly “if a student does not cram all the names, dates and facts into there short-memory they are denied a high-school diploma regardless of academic record, or must retake that year of school again"

This is a travesty of epic proportions; even if a student must acquire a certain level of common knowledge such as a general knowledge about presidents (who is the current one, the past presidents, legacies of the presidents, etc.,), important events and when they occurred, and other such things, along with a slew of popular culture. This knowledge we acquire, starts of limited and grows limitless as does the child. But every student develops at there own pace, sometimes excelling other times being not far off from reaching standards. In Massachusetts a standard test question was given as example and goes as follows: “Which individual led independence movements in the ninetieth century South America?” This question is extremely easy, yet I, myself do not even know what the answer would be.

Even though it is mentioned briefly and now no longer in most curriculums; I feel as if all public schools should take a hint from the Massachusetts school teacher that let her students choose an activity that they are interested in and were assigned to become experts in that field. Each of these students subjects were put under the microscope and they were required to do extensive research and eventually presented there findings to there fellow classmates. This is the best format to allow kids to explore there interests in an academic setting and it allows for them to grow fondness to one interest and write about it, then spread there joy and fondness of that particular subject to other classmates. This sometimes even changes the mindset or attitude of students towards a subject or interest in the process. From an education perspective this should have been implemented as part of these standardized testing, but not in the rigorous way that the other standardized tests are taken in. 

It should be regarded as a gold mine for the school systems, because it allows the students to write a paper about what they like, and research a topic, it allows for a presentation, along with little mini assignments relating to the assignment to be given within the actual final paper. It eases the burden on the teacher and the students by allowing the teacher to grade the students accordingly to how well they research a topic, which should be obtained at a young age and lets the student write a paper about something they have a passion for, which leaves little room for “writers block” or procrastination as they assemble there paper. 

Essentially Kohn is stating that these mandated standardized tests are harsh on students, and cheat them of enjoying school and all it has to offer from social aspects, to academic, even to what they enjoy to do as hobbies. Clearly, these standards need to be brought down and should go according to what a typical student’s knowledge is, and not have outrageous questions. With that being said, these standardized tests should not fall extremely short of what is promise also. Finding that medium between the students who know the bare minimum, have basic knowledge and those who are extremely gifted academically is a hard task, but is much needed. These students also should not be pressured to perform up to standards on a test as some fourth graders were by researchers in Colorado. Pressuring them causes students to fear the consequences if they do poorly, then they become nervous about that and there body freezes, and there short term knowledge is shocked, temporarily leaving their mind paralyzed for a period of time—speaking figuratively.