However, paramount among the problems afflicting our public education system today are the methods and means of assessment which regulate and effectively tie the hands of educators and administrators in servicing students in the classroom and school environments. Most directly what I am referring to is the weight placed upon Standardized Examinations as the panacea measure by which all students are deemed successes or failures. While such examinations have undeniable uses (such as taking skills inventories, and determining developmental norms) they don’t necessarily benefit the entirety of a population, nor do they measure the application or depth of knowledge and skills.
Aside from the obvious statement that these tests can’t possibly service all students I must raise the question how could these tests possibly service all students? We live in a country where driving laws may not be consistent from town to town and county to county yet we are to believe that tests developed far and wide could be made applicable to anywhere with the bare minimum of norming and strategic reading selection? Even within a single community to possibility for common experiences and knowledge, especially in highly diverse and economically depressed districts, to be few and far between. When educating student populations that are comprised of primarily underprivileged and/or immigrant families it is very difficult to assist in the development of the schema required to take these tests and simultaneously conduct the blight on the field that is generated from the weight of standardized tests: test prep.
Test prep essentially cripples all curriculum progress in the name of preparing students for taking an examination. This sort of educational practice teaches kids how to take a test but not how to apply knowledge. The application of knowledge is the ultimate goal of education and students coming of age in a system that values summative culmination via examination rather than periodic formative assessment via portfolio and project defense prepares them in precious few ways to self-assess and literally provides them with no way to actively apply their knowledge. Standardized assessment is all the worst and most stagnate practices of education distilled into one defining moment, where as what we need is dynamic and exciting routes to educating our children.
There was a time when America was at the forefront of the world in technological development, economic strength, personal and intellectual freedom, and military might. This was owed in no small part to, what was at the time, the most progressive, pervasive, and available education system on the face of the earth. That system has since fallen into antiquity and disrepair and the best solutions disaster and despair of the most human of the humanities has been to approach it from the mindset of the industrialist. To transform the subject of transformative education into the object of indoctrination—we have shifted from turning on minds to turning screws and no matter how many economic boons you grant to the commercial and industrial sectors in the name of bolstering today’s market tomorrow’s will be in just as much critical danger as our workforce will have neither the skills nor the knowledge to build an America that is ever-increasing in its greatness. Instead we will plateau, decline, and decay.