Standardized testing restrains US schools

As the minute hand quickly approaches the ending time, you experience a small panic attack as you fill out the remaining bubbles on the SAT. The proctor then calls time and you rush to bubble in one more. The question is not how well you did, but rather how well you did in the given amount of time. The result of that college entrance test will be one of the factors determining your college future, a momentous decision. Standardized tests may be important for colleges, but how important are they in regards to learning?

On average, the U.S. spends about $1.9 billion on standardized testing, which begins for students as early as the third grade. Yet despite this large amount, the U.S. constantly seems to fall behind in academics.

The U.S. currently places seventeenth in the developed world for education, according to a global report by the education firm Pearson. Finland and South Korea top the list first and second respectively. The U.S. then lacks in the quality of its education, that the way in which students are taught needs to be changed, or improved.

In the last few years, the U.S. and Finnish school systems have moved in opposite directions. While the U.S. has moved toward standardized testing, Finland has moved away from tests, focusing more on teacher and student evaluation in the classroom. Rather than the bubble sheets and #2 pencils, Finland has focused more on collaboration in the classroom, critical thinking and problem solving.

Students in Finland do not even begin standardized testing until they turn 15 or 16, whereas those in the U.S. begin around the ages of 8 or 9. Standardized testing limits students to three wrong bubbles and one right. Learning to them becomes the mere passing of a test that determines whether or not they will be held back a year or enter college,devoid of the curiosity or culture that should come with with learning.
Despite the drawbacks, standardized tests provide more reliable and objective measures of student achievement. Not only is standardized testing reliable in terms of academic achievement, it is also reliable in terms of civil rights. Standardized testing become inclusive and non-discriminatory, further reaffirming the effectiveness of the No Child Left Behind Act.

We then ask ourselves why students in Finland exceed our level in academics when Finnish students have little homework and fifty minute lunches? Standardized testing holds us back. Once we start to move past standardized testing, we will be able to encourage more independent thought within U.S. school systems, bolstering American educational rankings. Yet the desire for hard educational data from standardized tests encourages us to grip onto it even more despite its drawbacks. If the pros of the Finnish and US school systems can be merged, the combination will provide a more effective and fair school assessment.