LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The Gains tests are a series of ACT-style assessments given in every class at WBHS. According to the district, these tests are used by teachers to adapt instruction to address gaps in student learning.
I don’t take the Gains Test seriously for a number of reasons. There are a multitude of standardized assessments that students are required to endure, semester after semester, on some occasions taking the same one for multiple classes. These tests, designed to measure academic growth of the student body, are not only irritating but a blatant waste of perfectly good time, filling class periods that could (and should) be spent doing anything of a more productive nature. One could argue that taking one or two days out of an entire semester to take a test for the good of the school does little or no harm, and that’s perfectly valid. The time spent isn’t excessive, and the tests are little more of a nuisance to most. What I’m most concerned with, however, is not the actual tests but what they stand for.
Our entire academic system is designed for assessment and measurement of students. Classes are taught so that when the time comes, students can be successful on the test. A prime example of this is any AP course, where the entire point of the work involved is to pass the final. This overbearing focus on the test has a horribly detrimental effect—it takes the joy out of learning. There is absolutely no concept of learning for the sake of learning. Procuring wisdom simply for one’s own enjoyment is an idea long extinct, replaced with a factory system pumping out standardized, creativity-deprived, test-taking robots. We are effectively training our students to believe that learning is an obligatory action only to be fulfilled at school, placing upon it a terribly negative connotation that has very little actual validity.
Perhaps this is unavoidable. I don’t claim to know much about the topic, though I am aware that completely doing away with tests is impossible and illogical. I would, however, call for the central focus of schooling to be taken away from assessment and placed on furthering knowledge for the good of oneself and the growth of mind and character. Make learning engaging and creative instead of mindless repetition and recitation, and I believe the effects would be enormous.
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