Students should certainly think about what they read, but they should read something worth thinking about" (Ravitch, 2010, p. 20).
21st century skills is a common topic of discussion these days so I decided to use my 21st century skills and do a search on career and college readiness. The search garnered 21,800,000 hits. From college reports to consultant and businesses offering unique ways to meet the career and college readiness goal, there is certainly a great deal of support and research out there. However, not all of it is very beneficial.
Although we are educators and it is our job, and our belief, that we need to get students ready for their future, we are bound by state and federal regulations that prevent us from meeting our goal. Namely, high stakes testing.
How can we get students career and college ready for the 21st century, which we’re 11 years into already, when we are overly concerned about high stakes testing? What came first, the chicken or the egg? Are we being inundated with high pressure, high stakes testing because we were not preparing students for the future? Or, does high stakes testing prevent us from moving toward 21st century skills which will get students career and college ready?
Whatever one you think is the answer, we can all agree that the students are being caught in the middle. High stakes testing may be a snapshot of one moment in time. However, the preparation it takes to get students ready to take the exam takes months of work.
Yes, learning how to take an exam is important but the pressure on students actually has the potential to make students dislike school at a very young age. We see many students drop out of high school. Will the increased testing and pressure create a higher number of drop outs when they reach non-compulsory age? Will these students who feel like failures be more likely to drop out because they feel disenfranchised? “Boredom continues to be a leading cause of our high school dropout rate.(Wagner, 2008)”
I have heard parents say that the testing does not matter to them because they get other progress monitoring results from teachers which shows the progress their children are making. They are, however, concerned about the amount of stress their children feel during the testing time period, which could be a week to four weeks depending on the grade, district or state where the child is being educated. Other parents get stressed about how well their child does and are concerned that their third grader will not be able to get into Harvard because they did not do well on the test. I have not had Harvard contact me for third grade testing results yet.
In order to prepare students for the future, regardless of the century and career path, they need to learn time management skills, study skills, and be actively engaged in their own learning. We need to implement creative strategies to get them excited about their future.
Unfortunately, high stakes testing does not meet any of the above requirements, and takes time away from engaging instructional practices. That time could be better spent preparing students for their future.
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Ravitch, D. (2010). The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. New York: Basic Books. Wagner, Tony (2008). The Global Achievement Gap, Basic Books, New York.
The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.