Fifty years ago Roland C. Faunce and Morrel J. Clute wrote Teaching and Learning in the Junior High School (Wadsworth) in which they defined evaluation as having to do with” what one thinks, what one feels, and what one believes to be so.” Clute in an article, “Evaluation in the Self-Contained Classroom” added, “Evaluation is the search for meaning in experience and is the means by which values are discovered; the means by which we achieve our objectives in life.”
In 1959, 60,000,000 standardized tests were administered to twenty million American school children. The Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation, and Educational Policy estimated $22.7 billion was spent on standardized testing per year in the early 1990′s. Not one of those tests had anything to do with evaluating what students thought, felt, or believed to be so. Not one explored the students’ search for meaning in their experiences or determined what values they had actuated.
Today, with nearly 77 million students in our schools standardized testing becomes a questionable luxury. CSTEEP estimates a cost of approximately $570 per student to test. You do the math.
Testing then, as it is now, is far too expensive and is viewed too much as a punitive measure symbolic of the conflict between students, teachers, and community expectations; between community, state and federal funding. Because a student does poorly on a standardized test, how can one fault the teacher or the school system. Just maybe that student had a very bad night at home, a bad morning, or was ill. Or maybe, that student rebelled and deliberately answered the questions incorrectly.
Certainly student evaluation should be a part of the teaching-learning processes and not a periodic ordeal which both student and teacher must endure. It should not be something to provide bragging rights in local and state comparisons.
Frankly, I cannot ascertain how all of these separate and all too numerous standardized testing orgies can justifiably be considered a teaching-learning situation. As a former teacher, student evaluation had definite purpose and definite uses. How many teachers take class time to review their tests with their students after they had been graded? My teachers did. It was an opportunity for correct reinforcement of learning.
Teachers should be allowed to evaluate effective methods of thinking, work habits, study skills, the inculcation of constructive social attitudes and social sensitivity; skills in effective communication, acquisition of important information, development of a consistent philosophy of life, aesthetic values, and above all, dignity and self-worth.
Teachers who achieve this should be rewarded; not those who teach their students just to pass the standardized tests. A false barometer, no matter how it is clothed, is still false. Standardized tests do not evaluate student learning, achievement, or potential. They sure cause a lot of indigestion, headaches, and damaged egos.