Education

What Students, Adult Expert Think About Standardized Tests – VOX ATL Teen Seeks Answers

In Georgia, students and teachers continue to have different opinions about standardized testing.
In Georgia, students and teachers continue to have different opinions about standardized testing.
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By Zyire Williams

End of Course standardized testing remains stressful and problematic for many Georgia high school students. I set out to ask some local teens and an expert how the tests might be improved.

First, I went to the John H. Harland Boys and Girls Club in southwest Atlanta to talk to some teens and then I went to Learn4Life, a metro Atlanta regional education partnership organization made up of school districts and the communities they serve, to talk to an expert.

The effectiveness of the EOC in Georgia continues to be questioned by many students, including me. Our schools tell us making good grades on the EOCs is a very important thing, and we need to pass them in order to have a successful life.

But my personal experience with Georgia Milestones this year is a good example of why the test is sometimes hard to pass. At the end of the Milestones test, I was asked questions I had no clue about, i.e. “How much does a Manatee weigh?” and “How many gallons of water are in a toilet?”

For my research, I went to the Boys and Girls Club to ask three kids what they think about standardized testing. To my surprise, most of them told me that the standardized test was necessary, while two of them said that the test needs to be improved.

One of the kids I interviewed was a 15-year-old male named Trev’on. When I asked him if standardized testing should be improved, he said “Yes,” depending on the level you’re being tested on. Even though Trev’on said yes, Jaida, 14, told me, “Yes and no. Some students have the ability to study and be responsible and do what they’re supposed to do. However, other students at the end of the school year just flunk and just really don’t care about it.”

Thirteen-year-old year old Anijah gave me a straight up “No.” She said it all comes down to how much effort you put into the work and if you study for it. If you don’t study hard enough for it, then you’re going to think that it needs to be improved.

When I asked if the Georgia Milestones is necessary, Trev’on said that it was necessary for some subjects like ELA and math. Jaida said she thinks it shows your growth and where you are skills-wise for the next grade level. Anijah, meanwhile, told me, “It’s all based on your grades, and teachers put a lot of pressure on the students when the test [taking time] comes.”

When I asked Trev’on if the Milestones test is just an excuse to get better test results, he said, “No, because you need the Milestones to advance to the next grade.” Jaida said she felt it was very necessary to see the potential that kids have and to see what they’re having a hard time on and what they don’t need to work on. Anijah said “Yes,” because in her school, her teachers always complain about other states having better test scores than them.

At Atlanta’s Learn4Life, I talked to the organization’s executive director Ken Zeff.

To my surprise, he somewhat agreed with me that kids are taking too many tests and some of them aren’t necessary. When I asked Zeff if standardized tests should be improved, he said nobody wants to take a test that is not necessary.

I then asked Zeff if teachers do a good job at preparing their students for standardized tests, and he explained that with the standardized tests, many teachers start to get nervous and don’t focus on the subjects and start to worry more about test prep than anything else.

When I asked if the Georgia Milestones test is necessary, Zeff told me schools need a way to know how kids are doing, and he explained if kids don’t take standardized tests every year for every subject, then teachers aren’t going to know what the kids are learning.

For my last question, I asked him what it was like to work with people who administer and grade the Milestones and Zeff explained that teachers and principals don’t see the grading sheet (it’s concealed in a tightly sealed box and people are standing around the box to make sure it’s not opened).

In Georgia, students and teachers continue to have different opinions about standardized testing. While some people say there’s nothing wrong with them, others believe, as I do, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

VOX Media Cafe reporter Zyire Williams, 14, is a rising high school freshman.

This story was published at VOXATL.org, Atlanta’s home for uncensored teen publishing and self-expression. For more about the nonprofit VOX, visit www.voxatl.org.