CMR Freshman says new standards open doors to critical thinking

by Peyton Baker

I’m sitting in a quiet classroom. I have only so long to finish the standardized test I received the day before. I have been stressing over this because I feel a lot of pressure and have no idea what the test is asking. It doesn’t make sense and when I ask my teacher, they can’t even help. All they can do is smile at me, tell me to read the question again and answer to my best ability. So I guess and move on to the next question.

It’s clear standardized testing is problematic.

Montana Sen. Jon Tester agrees.

“I think we spend far too much time testing students,” Tester told me. “That takes away instructional time in the classroom. As you all know, I am a former teacher. Teaching in the classroom is gold for a teacher and if you’re taking tests it would take away from that instruction time. It can have some negative impacts on the teachers’ ability to be successful.”

If most of time in the classroom is spent preparing for these tests then when does the teacher get to teach you? When all you learn is to succeed on these tests, when do you learn information you can apply to real life?

For example, in English each year we write an informative essay for the standardized test. However, I have not learned in class that by writing the essay I could use it for a speech, or for writing my articles, or even for making a point to a person I disagree with. I had to learn that elsewhere.

“I think really it’s important to teach kids how to think critically and to not teach tests, because I really think critical thinking is important in the worldwide economy that we live in. When we teach the test it tends to water down the thought process,” Tester said.

Students need to be taught how to think critically. We will then be able to be self-reliant and able to solve problems. By doing so, we will have more people in our society who can ask vital questions, be able to assess relevant information and come up with conclusions and solutions. They will be able to think with an open mind and communicate effectively.

By teaching critical thinking, we would be able to problem solve in many different ways.

Thankfully last week the U.S. Senate approved the Every Student Succeeds Act. It is a major overhaul of No Child Left Behind and was brought forward by Tester.

Instead of having to take standardized tests every year, under Every Student Succeeds, students will only have one test in K-5, one test in grades 6-8 and one test in grades 9-12. This bill would allow the communities to choose the tests they take and focus more of what their kids are taught. Most importantly, it would help people to be better thinkers and problem-solvers.

Our classrooms will be more of a learning environment and not a test-preparing lab. Then the teachers can teach with a passion and to real life.

Peyton Baker is a freshman at CMR and a member of the Tribune’s Teen Panel.