Personal Reflection · Writing

Why Many Writers and Some Others Cannot Stand Standardized Tests

Are standardized tests effective in measuring how educated students are these days? To be more specific is the OSSLT a practical way in measuring whether grade 10 students are literate or not?

Before I delve into it, I would like to point out how one young writer had a terrible experience writing a test that measures reading literacy and writing competency. Nothing absurd there.

Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test Consider these points to understand why:

  • Standardized tests like the OSSLT or Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (which I had the pleasant opportunity to write today) kills creativity. Writing knows no boundaries. Writers know no limits. You can’t just stick them in a box and proceed to tell them: “Hey don’t go outside this box. Stay within it or else…you will fail!”  
  • Aside from being extremely limiting, these tests aren’t testing how well you write rather it is a test to see how well you follow instructions. Writers, if you do not know this fact already, care about grammar, syntax, etc. They care less about following what anyone tells them. “Hey, write a five paragraph essay explaining your opinion on cell phone usage  Be sure to include transitional phrases like first, second, etc.” will make all writers pull their hair out. Instead of following instructions, they will not follow the instructions to see if they can get away with it.
  • Writers hate being limited to a word count or in this case a line count. For all intents and purposes, I would much rather use up more lines to ensure I do not commit a grammar mistake than to use up less lines and write in sentence fragments. Does anyone not understand I care about being grammatically right technically regardless of how much space I take up?
  • There is too much pressure on the scores for the school and more importantly on the students. This one pertains to everyone. Nowadays, if the school has high test scores, people immediately assume the best of the school and staff. If the standardized test scores are low, however, people assume the worst automatically. Many evaluations that come from standardized testing does not measure educational quality effectively. So how do you rely on information that is flawed to begin with? Writers know better than anyone that occasionally, numbers do not mean everything.
  • Writers know the English language is complex therefore, trying to judge whether one is literate or not in one day over a series of multiple choice questions with some structured writing responses is ridiculous. Plain and simple. It does not work like that. How can you say someone is not literate  by giving them one test? One test that determines if a student can read or write.
  • Does anyone realize the amount of time and money spent on administering this test? Oh to make matters worse, this year the test was cancelled a month ago and rescheduled for today. Uh-huh. The funding could go somewhere else. Say new *ahem* somewhat faster computers? Or textbooks? Or hiring new teachers? Unless of course, laying off half the teachers has been deemed a great idea to make up for insufficient funding.
  • Writers like to learn. In fact, writers are lifelong students. So when the OSSLT takes time away from the classroom, they become annoyed. Instead of learning something new, they must take so called “Litz Blitz” sessions to learn what the OSSLT is all about. I lost count on how many classes I had to sacrifice all because I had to prepare for the OSSLT. More often than not, writers already know how to write a well structured essay or an informative news report. Thank you very much. There goes a few hours learning about atomic mass, chemical formulas, and molecular compounds. That can’t hurt anybody, right?

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