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McHenry Staff Weighs Benefits of Standardized Testing

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Photo Courtesy of Biologycorner

Photo Courtesy of Biologycorner

Photo Courtesy of Biologycorner

Gianna Matassa, Editor - West Campus

Testing season has reared its ugly head once again and schools across Illinois have been busy administering the SAT and other state-mandated standardized tests. 

MCHS is no stranger to standardized testing, which was implemented along with the Common Core curriculum in 2009, but many question its value and validity in modern education. 

Standardized tests like PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) directly correlate with the Common Core Curriculum, and the test creators, like Pearson Education Inc., claim their tests “measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and careers.”

However, many educators disagree with these tests and their purpose.

“For many years, I have been frustrated with standardized testing because it pushes certain curricular areas over others,” West Campus Assistant Principal Greg Eiserman said.

Eiserman said that these tests seem to encourage students to simply “learn certain criteria but disregard other classes or curriculums, such as World Languages.”

Standardized tests create the push for higher-level classes such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or dual credit courses.

However, the pressure of these rigorous classes may be too much for students, and in some cases, have detrimental effects on students’ mental health.

According to an article published in the Chicago Tribune, in Lake Forest, Ill., three students committed suicide due to the stress of AP classes and honors courses damaging their mental health, with another similar instance reported in New Trier Community School District in February 2019.

Courses have become rigorous to the point that students’ mental health is declining. A Naperville student from District 203 created a report that included a survey of 4,600 students, which argued that the administration should take students’ health and academic performance into account when it comes to making curricular decisions.

It brought into question the so-called “Naperville North Way” an initiative that encourages students in the district to continuously seek rigor in their school-related lives. Nearly 50 percent of the surveyed students reported experiencing stress or anxiety when it came to academics.

Priorities in education have come to students being proficient test takers while barely digesting the information and, at times, seemingly disregarding their mental health.

Ryan Ellison, an AP physics teacher at McHenry West Campus said, part of AP course instruction focuses on effective test-taking.

“Educators focus on ensuring students study for the [AP] exam and know how to take a test,” he said.

At McHenry West High School, there was a total of 27 AP classes as of the 2016-2017 school year and the average student takes two to three AP classes, minimum.

Unlike the state-mandated standardized tests, students do have a choice in whether they enroll in an AP class and whether they wish to take the AP test. Ultimately, it is up to students to assess their own abilities and decide whether these courses are a good fit for them. 

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