by Mohamad Amin
Ten years ago, The Washington Post published an article on “The Rise of the Testing Culture,” an article detailing how students have to deal with multitudes of standardized tests, the worst being the SAT. As Tech students we’re all too familiar with the SAT, the article fails to mention a few things we’re all too familiar though, specifically the ACT, AP tests, SAT 2, and maybe even the ASVAB, not even counting our state specific regents. Nowadays most of us expect multiple tests during a school year, each test important in its own way. For each of them we have to memorize something. The SAT and ACT both have different test taking strategy. I took both and never studied any specific material, I just studied “testing taking strategies”, mainly managing my time and learning that the ACT uses the Oxford comma. Do these things affect my real life? Will any employer really care about the Oxford comma? I’d wager probably not.
Really memorizing and then forgetting is nothing new, it’s called “rote learning” and has a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to it. We’ve all seen the TV trope of a parent helping their child with homework and having no idea what their student is learning. The parent has long forgotten the topics. Rote learning is nothing new to society, but it has gotten more prevalent with the rise of standardized testing.
Every time I lack interest in a class, I notice a pattern starts to emerge. I memorize the relevant information and as soon as it’s no longer useful, I forget it all. By the end of the year, after the regents, AP, or whatever, I will have learned nothing. I’ve never been much of a mathematical savant. Frankly, I can not remember anything I learned in Geometry or Trigonometry. I do remember that I did pass these classes and the ensuing regents.
Studying for tests has become separate from school itself. While I haven’t, I know a lot of went to prep for the SHSAT. A decent chunk of us went to prep for the SAT/ACT too. We’ve sacrificed our summer breaks for these tests. Every year we buy review books too, Princeton Review, Crash Course, Black Book, there is a whole gambit of them and each test has their own. I won’t pretend I’m any better, I have a Princeton Review book for every AP I took and the ACT too. We all treat the tests themselves as a class, studying for the test instead of the material we’re being tested on.
Our testing culture has been so prevalent and ingrained that we don’t even think about it, it’s just something you expect. Something that I didn’t expect though, our teachers get judged by our standardized tests too. Teachers are expected to get a certain amount of students over a certain score threshold, and may be penalized for failure to do so. It’s an easy system, makes sense in an abstract. It completely ignores things like motivation, prior knowledge, and anything disruptions that could affect students. What if a math teacher gets a whole class of students like me? The students would do poorly, that’ll reflect on the teacher but it won’t be the teacher’s fault. Standardized testing needs to change.