Is Standardized Testing the Way to Go?

Posted: July 6, 2012 in Teaching, Writing

The bulk of this last week found me looking at information related to standardized testing and world education rankings. One of the things that I have learned about the whole situation is that there is no easy trend to point to.

Now, I read all of this info for my own purpose initially, therefore I did not document any of the sources. Bear that in mind as I go forward. However, everything I talk about here can be found online or in the recent NYSUT newsletter.

Ladies and gentlemen. The answer to the question about whether or not standardized testing makes diapositive difference is….sort of. 

I know, a little bit anticlimactic isn’t it. Well, it’s true. According to the recent OECD world rankings China is número uno. China also does a good amount of standardized testing. For those of you that don’t know, the OECD world rankings are based on a common assessment that roughly a half million students worldwide take. The United States, for the record, ranks 17th according to the information I found. This is out of 65 countries. Anyway, I digress. The point is that China is kicking tail and they do a lot of standardized testing. This must mean that their students are high achieving, right. Well, that all depends. I know several researchers and they say that their Chinese grad students are great with their technical knowledge but often struggle with creativity and self-direction. I find this interesting, as great technical knowledge would seem to be very important, and couldn’t creativity be taught? I wonder.

In contrast to China we have Finland. Finland, a country in Europe, rarely tests their students and  30% of their students receive some sort of special help. (NYSUT United July/August 2012) Students are taught to think for themselves and work cooperatively. What’s more is that the teachers are a part of the decision making process at the governmental level. Note that. Said teacher’s and not educators. Finland ranks third in the world using the same ranking guidelines, just a touch behind China and South Korea. Teacher’s are treated as professionals and given the freedom to do their jobs. 

If the U.S. wants to improve we need to look at what others are doing. China has a true nationalized education system which helps when it comes to testing and analysis. Every province needs to teach the same information. China’s fault, if there is one based on my read of the situation, is that the students get little opportunity to think for themselves in the classroom.

Again, this is based on one week’s reading. If you want me to look into this more and report, please comment.

Finland also has a nationalized education system that the teachers are largely vested in as a result of their involvement in the policy. More teachers in the U.S. would be on board with the changes if we felt that our input was valuable. Finland also does little standardized testing and allows for a good amount of student individuality to flourish. I, for one, would rather work in Finland.

As Frank Hartley said, in response to my last post on education, he could pass most tests without thinking, and I forced him to actually step back and think. Seems to me that making students think for themselves is my thing. 

Either way, we as a country have work to do, and if we don’t learn from the examples of those ahead of us in the rankings then we stand little chance of closing those gaps.
So, what do you think? What manner of educational system would you like to work/learn/send your child to under?

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