Unsuspecting sophomores arrived to school last August ready to learn and do well in the new school year. However, a surprise awaited these students. The ISTEP test they had been taking since they were third graders and had been told ended for them as eighth graders, now extends to tenth grade.
Many parents, students and teachers wonder if the test was valid and necessary and if it truly does benefit students.
“According to the state, the ECA test is the graduation requirement test as of now,” assistant principal, Tracy McMahen, said. “But as of next year the ISTEP test will be the graduation requirement exam that they will have to pass in order to graduate high school.”
The ISTEP test does align better with AP exams and the material on the SAT but many are still questioning the reasoning behind reinstating the ISTEP. Lawmakers recently approved a repeal that will end ISTEP in 2017 and will find a replacement.
“The ISTEP could be considered a better test than the ECA because it does provide teachers with more data on their students progress and academic needs. The ISTEP was also created by the same individual who wrote the Common Core and the new SAT,” English teacher Casey Tedrow said. “For the first time AP, ISTEP and Common Core curriculum are all lined up.”
Unlike the ISTEP, the ECA is a different test with a unique style from most of the other standardized tests that students were required to take. The ECA also did not provide teachers with any information on specific topics where students struggled.
“The ECA scores would just state that a student struggled with reading, but this isn’t specific. Does this student struggle with making inferences, finding main idea, or answering questions that ask about a character’s motivation? Teachers just needed more information,” Tedrow said.
Sophomores this year are in the middle of finishing three rounds of NWEA progress tests, two rounds of ISTEP, one round of ECA’s–all of which occurred after the PSAT test. This puts the minimum amount of required tests for tenth graders at a grand total of seven. This does not include the AP exams, Accuplacer tests and the SAT or ACT exams that many sophomores will take. In one year, a sophomore student will be subjected to an average of nine rounds of testing.
“We don’t like taking the tests because people just get so bored of it which causes them to not do well because they don’t feel like trying,” Michael Morgan, a sophomore, said. “Plus they don’t test you on what you are learning now. I’m taking geometry right now and all of the questions on the ISTEP were from Algebra, which I took last year.”
Strong possibilities of decreased progress might result from the prodigious amount of tests given to students. Test fatigue and general frustration with the test content may have an impact on test scores.
“It helps that the tests show our progress and problem areas to teachers, but it is a lot of tests,” sophomore Dharma Allen said. “I know that a lot of the students get tired and just click through the tests and pick random answers to get it over with which doesn’t provide teachers with the most accurate results.”
There are many pros and cons that have been debated and discussed by lawmakers, board members, students, parents and teachers about the new standardized testing requirements. In essence, the standardized tests are given to help students prepare for college and careers. However, what is still unclear is if these tests truly are helpful to a student’s performance or whether the drawbacks overshadow the benefits.