When I look through all of my class syllabi and course calendars, I can see all of the dates that my professors have scheduled for us to take exams. Some of these classes have short, point-heavy exams that happen at the end of each week, while others have long, also point-heavy exams that occur less frequently. Regardless, the majority of points offered in my classes come from exams.
From our youngest students in elementary school onward into graduate schools, American students of all ages are overwhelmed by exams and the process of preparing to pass them. From third grade, Ohio’s students are required to take the Ohio Achievement Assessment, a standardized test that measures young students’ math and reading skills, adding additional exams in science, social studies and writing as Ohio students transition in to their final year of assessments in eighth grade.
Assessing students on occasion is important. We need to make sure we know how well our students are performing and where our schools need some additional help. Encouraging high performance on standardized tests incentivizes students to perform to their best ability and work hard as well, which is a great thing. As for in the classroom, examination is important to put the skills of the teachers to the test, but the words “this will be on the test” should not be the way to get students to pay attention to information. My peers at UC spend lectures typing the professor’s words verbatim in order to get as many notes as possible for the exam. We know that this method of learning does not encourage active listening and performance.
The truth is, most of the American education is just long preparation for standardized tests. If we were to rearrange the curriculum across the board to include relevant, important information that is applicable to the real world instead of training students for test performance, we would see positive change.
The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international assessment of high school student performance in reading, mathematics, and science across 72 countries every three years. In 2015, the U.S. ranked 41st in math, 24th in reading and 25th in science of the 72 nations assessed. In reading and science skills, the U.S has remained consistent in its scores across recent PISA exam years. However, from the 2012 PISA, America’s overall performance in mathematics dropped by 11 points.
Not to dismiss the potential and ability of the nations that ranked above us, but there is no reason why America shouldn’t be on the top of these lists. We have the ability —that is, money — available to help invest in our education. The problem is that we aren’t doing it. We aren’t investing money in to our classrooms, and we aren’t investing the best educational practices in to our system. Our teachers across America are the best in the world. They are just given the task of educating in a system that tells them their first priority is to prepare their students for the test. Proper education is absolutely crucial to the success of our nation going forward. We won’t perform economically if we don’t improve our performance. This is about the future.