Testing In High Schools is Ineffective

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As the 2021-2022 school year pulls into full swing, tests and quizzes are too, pulling into full swing. However, both students and teachers are wondering if standardized testing is effective, or even necessary at all. Based on the previous school year, it can be concluded that the answer is no—at least not the way they were previously used.

“If school is about learning, then learning should be prioritized”

The educational system, as a whole, likes to use standardized testing in classes because it’s easy. Everyone gets the same test, so it’s easy to see how students do in comparison to one another. In addition to this, these types of tests allow teachers to gain insight into what students truly understand and what they could use more help with. This, in turn, permits teachers to tailor the curriculum to the necessary topics and provide review on topics that need it. Tests, as many students can affirm, are large grades that could define an entire semester. Is a singular test a good metric of educational understanding? Many studies say no. 

If school is about learning, then learning should be prioritized. The University of Chicago led a study to see what type of teaching was most effective: Hands-on or lectures. The results showed that hands-on labs led to increased brain activity and a deeper level of understanding. Based upon the results, it can be concluded that a large lab at the end of a unit including everything previously learned would lead to a better assessment of understanding as well as serve as a better metric of students’ learning.

In addition to this, large tests cause unnecessary stress on students. Harvard University led a study in 2019 to observe the correlation between the levels of cortisol (a hormone associated with stress) in students before and after a big test. The results were not shocking and only proved what students already knew. Stress increases when there is a test, and stress is a leading cause of students not doing well in classes. Therefore, not only do tests fail to provide an adequate measurement of educational understanding, but can also decrease the performance of students.

The answer to this seemingly unanswerable problem is more simple than it may seem. Tests should be administered for less points on a student’s grade. This way, teachers can still obtain the necessary knowledge to tailor their classes without negatively affecting the mental health of their students. These tests would go hand-in-hand with a larger lab/hands-on project where students can prove their understanding in a less stressful environment. This could be anything from writing a script in an English class to creating a diorama in a social studies class. The possibilities are truly endless.

Tests are not the future of education, and we, as a society, cannot continue to pretend that they are. We need to prioritize learning again—and that means hands-on activities.

Update: Headline updated from “Testing is Inefficient” to “Testing In High Schools is Ineffective”. Updated on 1/02/21 12:03 AM.

David Scibilia is a Senior at JDHS. He is the lead editor of the Opinion section as well as the Public Editor for Rampage. He hopes to study Political Science and Journalism at college after he graduates. When not writing, David works at Trader Joe’s.