Teaching to the Test Harms Students

And we don’t want a society with standardized minds

Robin Harwick, Ph.D.
The Faculty
Published in
6 min readOct 5, 2020

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Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

Standardized tests are only useful for measuring standardized minds. However, humans are not standardized, nor do we want them to be. If you think about it, pressuring students to do well on standardized tests is a strange way to measure success. Why would we want everyone to learn the same content or take the same path? One thing that makes the world a rich and beautiful place is that we all have different strengths and ideas to bring to the table. It is misguided to create an educational system where each student is only supposed to learn prescribed content.

Sometimes the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine in standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds- Diane Ravitch

Hyper focusing on teaching a narrowed curriculum to improve test scores is dangerous. As the world changes and humanity faces problems never faced before, such as climate change, we need creative and innovative solutions. We need students to learn how to problem-solve, collaborate, pivot quickly when new situations arise, and we need compassionate leaders.

Additionally, many of the jobs that will be available to current K-12 students do not exist now. It is impossible to know the exact skills that these jobs will require, highlighting the need for creativity, flexibility, and adaptability. Assets that are not currently rewarded in most schools. Instead, these critical strengths are suppressed, and students suffer. Our society will suffer too.

The narrowing of the curriculum for the benefit of high scores on standardized tests doesn’t promote the development of cognitive abilities. Additionally, it stifles teachers. They can’t teach a breadth of topics because they fear that their students won’t score as high on the standardized tests.

What about all the issues that aren’t being explored in the narrowed curriculum? Are they less important in our current time than they were previously? What about the students who aren’t interested in the particular topics forced upon them? Many of these students disengage from school, and no amount of trying to force them to…

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Robin Harwick, Ph.D.
The Faculty

Author, Educator, Researcher, Survivor, and Youth & Family Advocate. robinharwick.com