Standardized tests hurt more than help

Multiple standardized tests that are being pushed on U.S. students clearly are doing more harm than good, as the U.S. continues to lose ranking on the Program for International Student Assessment ranking scale, dropping to 36 out of 75 countries. Obviously the number of standardized tests needs to be reduced along with more focus on enriching curriculum.

Finland is ranked at number six on the PISA scale. Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan top Finland but are greatly reliant on technology which makes it hard to compare to the U.S.

According to Business Insider, Finnish students only take one standardized test their entire primary and secondary schooling compared to the U.S.’s 112 tests between pre-K and 12th grade.

Because of the No Child Left Behind policy and Common Core standards, U.S. students are required to take at least eight standardized tests each year in order to track their progress. That adds up to about 20 to 23 hours of class time wasted on test taking.

Although, the U.S. Department of Education is trying to rewrite the No Child Left Behind policy, they have yet to put anything in place. Unfortunately, they have added the PARCC testing in order to track students’ progress going into high school.

The overwhelming abundance of tests that kids take does not accurately show their progress. Some students may excel more in the classroom rather than test taking. Yet, the U.S. school system is making a “teaching to test” environment.

According to Business Insider, the National Matriculation Examination is taken at the end of each Finnish student’s high school career and graded by teachers, not computers. One of the top education systems in the world only takes one standardized test. The U.S. takes over 100 standardized tests and its PISA results for mathematics, reading, and science have dropped to 36.

According to The Washington Post, Pasi Sahlberg, a professor and former director general at the Finland Ministry of Education, explained that the test doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects. Some issues may include: evolution, losing a job, dieting, political issues, violence, war, ethics in sports, junk food, sex, and drugs. Finnish schools also openly talk about these subjects in the classroom.

When talking about subjects such as these in class, for some students the discussion doesn’t last long. U.S. schools don’t talk about these controversial topics in class. Some students may not feel comfortable sharing their opinion because they were never taught that it is okay to share what you think. In Finland students are taught to speak their mind rather than shutting down a controversial conversation.

In addition to testing, U.S. schools are doing a poor job with homework.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Finnish students only spend an average of three hours a week on homework. Yet, U.S. students spend an upwards of six hours a week.

For students, who have packed schedules, may stay up until all hours of the night trying to finish homework. The U.S. needs to take into consideration that students need sleep in order to focus during school. Adolescents can’t get the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night when schools are sending kids home with hours of homework.

After CNN wrote on their Facebook page asking parents whether schools are giving too much, too little, or the wrong types of homework, most said that their kids were getting too much. Parents said that their children are stressed out and exhausted by the volume of homework they receive. More than half the homework most kids receive is busy work, according to The Washington Post.

Doctors suggest that each student get at least eight to nine hours of sleep a night. How is that possible when each student has, on average, six hours of homework a night?

Finland places a lot of value on free time and play. According to The Atlantic’s Tim Walker, for every 45 minutes of instruction, by law, Finnish teachers are required to give their students 15 minutes of free time during the school day.

He also states that Finns have known this for years; they’ve been providing breaks to their students since the 1960s.

U.S. students, on the other hand, get less than half an hour of free time each day. This may lead to anxiety and stress because students cannot take their mind off of work mode, according to Healthline.

According to The Atlantic, Anthony Pellegrini, author of “Recess: Its Role in Education and Development” and emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota,  and his colleagues ran experiments at a public elementary school to test the relationship between free time and classroom time. They came to the conclusion that students were more attentive after a break than before a break.

Breaks don’t even have to be outside. It’s understandable that it would be a huge change for schools to give students breaks throughout the day but our five minute passing periods are not enough for every student to decompress.

When comparing Finland, a country that is in the top 10 best schooling systems around the world and the U.S., maybe we should be mirroring Finland’s theory of education to provide a more beneficial school system that provides what students need: more time learning in the classroom rather than being bombarded with tests and homework, but time to decompress as well.