Do Park City Schools Test Too Much?
My name is Julia, and I am a junior at Park City High School. Today I would like to give you a look at what my testing schedule looks like in the spring of this school year. The third week of April, I will have Galileo tests in my English, math, and science classes. The following week, I will begin my SAGE English tests. During the next two weeks, I will have three AP tests. The week after that, I will have SAGE tests for science. And the following week, the second to last week of school, I will be taking the math SAGE test. During this period I will also be taking finals given by teachers, and potentially the ACT or SAT as well. Does this sound overwhelming yet? To me, and to many other students, I can say it most certainly does.
Each of these tests serve different purposes. The ACT is a necessity if I plan on attending college, which I do. The AP tests have the potential to give me college credit for the classes I have taken. My class finals will test my proficiency in the subjects I have learned, and will contribute to my class grades as well. SAGE is a statewide test to measure our school district’s proficiency compared to that of other districts. Galileo serves to evaluate our progress throughout the year, as well as to examine our teachers’ success.
When you add up all of these tests, you’ll come to the same startling conclusion as I recently have: most students at Park City High School will have four, if not five, different kinds of tests on their hands this spring and face almost six straight weeks of testing. Students could spend anywhere between twenty and thirty hours testing during this time. I speak for many of my peers when I say that this appears to be quite excessive. A part of this dilemma can be blamed on the extreme testing culture that exists in the United States, but there are changes that we as a district could make to render the spring months more manageable for students. Unfortunately, the majority of these tests are inevitable, at least in America’s current education system. However, at the very least we could reexamine the necessity of the Galileo tests in order to lessen the load.
When it comes to the spring testing season, the Galileo tests tend to be a nuisance both to students and teachers. To us, the students, who have many other exams during this time, Galileo is an annoyance, an extra load of work that does not seem to affect us in the slightest. To teachers, Galileo is a program that uses class time for tests instead of lessons. To both, it seems like a waste of time. When classes are preparing for AP tests or class finals, the last thing we need is to take tests that don’t seem to directly benefit us in any way. Instead, we could be using that valuable class time to review or even cover new material. When comparing the Galileo tests to the other exams I have, I don’t understand how I can improve my future by taking them. And at this point in my life, shouldn’t my future be my top priority? Also, test fatigue is a force not to be underestimated. Exams are mentally draining and take a heavy toll on students. The more tests that we have piling up, the more difficult it is to do well on all of them as we go from test to test, becoming increasingly tired and worn down as the weeks go by.
That’s not to say I am denouncing test taking entirely. I fully understand the value in measuring proficiency and collecting data that is consistent across all teachers and departments. However, there is a fundamental flaw in this system of testing, which appears to simply be a superfluous addition to the myriad of tests students already face. When students do not see the value in an exam, they have no motivation to perform to their best of their ability. Teachers are not allowed to include Galileo scores in students’ grades, and we students get no other benefit for our troubles. As a result, the majority of data collected from these tests is inaccurate. How students tend to perform on the Galileo tests, exams that we are not invested in, do not accurately reflect our abilities. At this point, the Galileo tests do not properly serve their purpose.
I understand the intentions of these tests, and I appreciate the efforts made by our school system to give students the best education possible. However, when it comes to testing, I strongly believe in the old adage “less is more.” Instead of weighing down our students with redundant tests, I suggest using the time as an opportunity to review and further our learning. The weeks of time gained would prove invaluable and translate to higher success rates on our other exams. I know that our school board makes every decision with the students’ best interests in mind, and I hope that the same will be true when it comes to testing this spring.
Keep fighting the good fight
Wow! What an impressive article. I worked at PCHS for 10 years and Ms. Yeates took over my classes when I left. Currently, I work in an independent school in CA. and we do not have any mandated testing because it is a private school. I can say that the culture of testing brings student’s love of learning down, making students feel like they are cogs in the wheel. This is incredibly enlightening, and I agree with your proposal to eliminate the Galileo test. Our students take one test at the end of the year, every two years (8th, 10th, and 12th grade), to see the progress of the student’s learning and overall skill set in math, science, and English. Then, students can take no more than 3 AP classes in a year. It really creates a culture of learning for learning’s sake, than for the grade bump. As Ed said, “Keep fighting the fight.” Way to go.
Firstly, I would like to state that the Galileo test is much like any other tool, if you don’t use it right it can’t help you. If you keep going through these Galileo tests with the thought of, “This isn’t helping me, this test is worthless.” Then it might as well be. If you’re going to pick your favorite letter and not worry about your score then you’re right, the test is worthless. On the other hand, the Galileo test can be extremely helpful for bench-marking your progress on learning the curriculum for the test. The whole point of the Galileo is that you can use your newer scores and compare them to older ones and see how much you have learned and improved.
Secondly, you stated that there will be twenty to thirty hours of testing, I would like to point out that if you look at the hours comparatively spent in class for this time, it ends up only being around 5% of class time spent on testing, using your numbers. At first glance thirty hours may seem like a lot of time, but in only one semester of school, students spend thirty hours just in passing period, walking to class. When you look at the numbers comparatively it is easy to realize that these tests do not take up such a large amount of time. You also mentioned the idea that students will be testing for six weeks, which I am quite unsure of where you obtained these numbers. From previous experience I’ve found that Sage testing happens three days per class maximum, over the span of two weeks. Galileo is only taken three times throughout the entire year. These combined come nowhere close to six weeks.
Blaming this testing on the “extreme testing culture” of the United States is a rather weak point. When looking at things comparatively, countries such as China have a much higher testing rate than the United States, and they do not find it “excessive” I would also like to ask what you consider to be excessive, you already stated that thirty hours is excessive yet thirty hours over the entire spring is not a large amount. The way I see it, attacking standardized testing is the same as attacking the police force in the United States. It’s popular culture for both to be the subject of attack, but just like the police, tests are necessary.
Finally, I would like to ask you a question. Do you think that multiple tests of smaller magnitude would be less stressful than just one test of a very large magnitude? The way I see it, smaller tests are less of a burden hanging over your head.
P.S. I would just like to state that your article was very well written and I am as my name says, The Devils Advocate.
First, thank you for your comments. As is always the hope with the Park Rag, I believe your comments have added to the conversation. I also completely agree with you that Julia’s article was written very well. I wish I was as concise and provided as well thought out arguments as she has.
We have received a number of comments from people, about your comment. Most have been negative, centered on your use of the term “Devil’s Advocate,” but they didn’t really add anything to the conversation. I have not published those because I don’t want this to devolve into the name calling that we all see in the Park Record occasionally. It doesn’t add to the conversation.
With that said, I (and most people reading this) are many years removed from school. Yet, what Julia described reminded me of my most intense years of testing that occurred in college. It’s not something remotely consistent to what I experienced in high school (and I did take AP classes). That is why reading Julia’s viewpoint is so interesting. I didn’t even know that’s how it was now (at least apparently in Park City).
As for other countries testing, one of the best things I ever gained from attending Park City School Board meetings was a tip to read the book “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way.” I believe Superintendent Conley mentioned the book and how good it was. She was right. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject at all. In the book they talk about kids in South Korea who sleep through regular school classes (during the day) because they spend all evening in study classes for a TEST that basically controls their future opportunities.
We could debate whether our tests are “excessive” compared to what they are doing in South Korea. However, I look at it another way. It sounds like the Galileo test’s purpose is to “help” the student figure out how they are doing in school. It sounds like the SAGE test’s purpose is to “help” the student and teachers figure out how a kid was doing in school. It sounds like the AP tests are to get college credit (for the colleges that are still doing that). It sounds like the ACT test helps determine what college students get into.
From an outside perspective, I would say two of those tests sound like “make work” and two of those tests sound like a student gets actual value out of them (I could be wrong). If I put my trust in teachers, which I generally do, does not the B- on a Calculus test not tell the student that maybe they have more to learn? Doesn’t a D in history indicate that the student better step it up?
So, if a student doesn’t see value in Galileo or SAGE, why would they care? In fact, The Deseret News backs Julia’s point on SAGE testing. It says, “And because SAGE doesn’t affect an individual student’s ability to advance in school, honest effort is sometimes lacking, bringing into question the assessment’s accuracy, according to Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper.”
And that’s the problem. If students don’t find value in it, then they won’t invest time in it. It becomes useless. Yet, at the same time, students who have been taught that they “need to be the best” try to do it all — even at their own detriment.
The one thing I would say in counter to Julia’s article is that students have an option (in some test cases). They can choose to opt out of state tests. If you and your parents both decide the SAGE tests are useless, then why waste the time? You could spend the hours related to studying and testing in doing something that is beneficial. You could serve your community in an innovative way. You could study more for the ACT. You could start a business. You could program something unbelievable. You could visit sick kids in a hospital. All those things contribute more to one’s life than taking a test that adds no value.
Devil’s Advocate, the major contention I have with your comment is when you say “The way I see it, attacking standardized testing is the same as attacking the police force in the United States. It’s popular culture for both to be the subject of attack, but just like the police, tests are necessary.” The first thing I thought of is that image of the police officer pepper spraying student at UC Davis. Yes police forces are necessary and testing is necessary. Excessive policing and excessive testing are not.
That’s just my two cents.
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