The Education Revolution vs The Scourge of Standardized Assessment: What Really Matters

Teachers: Let’s be brutally honest shall we: exam results are all that matters in education. Bottom line.

Don’t misunderstand: What students can regurgitate and explain and do in a stress-fueled few hours should not be the ultimate end of their education. Schools should be hubs of self-discovery and confidence building where students learn to think and express themselves independently and where the focus is on curiosity, discovery, critical thinking, creativity and all those other yummy twenty-first century skills. But they aren’t, by and large. Even schools which profess to have these wonderful education principles at their core still subject their students to standardized examinations at the end of the academic year.

Universities want these results, as do parents and the education authorities. (And so do most students and teachers who don’t realize that there are better ways of measuring mastery.) Standardized assessments are simply the easiest way to benchmark a student and a school’s performance. (Note: I said the easiest – not the best.)

As much as we can argue that they should be, the scourge of standardized tests and exams is thus unlikely to be supplanted any time soon.

So does this mean that we need to give up on twenty-first century teaching and learning? Do we need to ignore technology in schools because students still have to sit for a final paper-based test? Are we deluding ourselves as to the value of integrating technology and twenty-first century educational principles when our educational culture is still mired in standardized testing?

For me, the answer is a resounding ‘no’ to all of these questions. And my reason, I think, reveals the two core motivations underpinning the education revolution:

In adopting a student-centred, technology-integrated, twenty-first century methodology, we increase students’ enjoyment and engagement in their own learning and we are more likely to be nurturing life-long learners.

Until these archaic benchmarking devices are replaced with a more commensurate, relevant system, motivated and engaged students can begin to see standardized tests as a temporary obstacles in their learning instead of seeing them as the be all and end all.

Exam results may not improve, but students are almost certainly going to become more involved, thoughtful, successful and confident adults in a decade or two.

And this, as any educational revolutionary will tell you, is the real purpose of school.


One comment

  1. Good post. Administrators need to espouse this to their BOE’s and parents. Tests should be looked at one way of evaluating, not the best or only way to evaluate our students. Parents have to start opting their children out of testing to send the loud message that their child is much more than just a number spit out at the end of the year. In teacher evaluations. NJ testing is tied to evaluations of teachers. As long as this is the case teachers are going to teach to the test. The game is set for them and they have to play bu the rules. What is lost in this whole process and education as a whole is how to we teach and asses the whole child? Tests assess one aspect of the student. They don’t even assess that part the best way possible. The fact is that testing is here and we have to make it as palatable as possible and remember that student growth is the objective in education not just student growth on standardized testing.


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