The answer is C

Guest Column

By Heather Bulla

The answer is C

The folly of standardized tests

In the novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley discusses his feelings on society's decline. In the new society, schools separate citizens by their abilities and distribute them where they will function best. In Brave New World, people are "conditioned" to perform certain tasks. While in American society we are led to believe that we can do anything we set our minds to, standardized testing derails these efforts by "conditioning" teachers and students to comply with the test.

These tests detract from effective learning and effective teaching. Students are relying more on memorization skills rather than actual knowledge. For example, the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) is required for Texas students to graduate from high school. It is more rigorous than TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) because it is supposed to raise educational standards. TAKS supporters say this will help students to become more knowledgeable, but in some cases, the opposite has happened.

Some high schools offer classes on how to take tests. I've attended one of these classes and they offer nothing but tips on how to guess. The instructors give students suggestions such as "If you cannot figure out the answer, put down 'C.'" These recommendations make it seem as if multiple-choice tests are nothing but games of chance, such as the lottery or blackjack.

Teachers complain about having to change their entire curriculum to fit the test, which also consumes valuable instruction time. Standardized tests have impacted high school students who depend on passing them to graduate, and who worry that a number determines their intelligence.

According to the website, Raising Hell: the Evils of State-Mandated Testing (, a mother talks about her son and the effect testing has had on him. "It's no wonder DJ comes home with enough homework to kill the entire night. And it's no wonder he's feeling stressed only three weeks into the school year."

These tests measure little but one's ability to take tests; they can also discourage those who aren't excellent test-takers from achieving their academic or life goals. And while memorization of some facts is important, other thinking skills are equally essential. For example, the TAKS and tests like them do not tap a student's creativity. They do not take into account that students learn at a different pace.

The idea that a number can determine where one goes to college, or decide the number of scholarships or amount of financial aid one receives is preposterous. It is also preposterous that the next generation is being reprimanded for their inability to remember that if all else fails, circle 'C'. •

Heather Bulla is a senior at McCollum High School. She is an intern at the San Antonio Current as part of a school/work mentorship program.

` By Heather Bulla `

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