CSTs: Worth or waste?

Katie Elvin

The paper, the bubbles, the pencils, the pressure, the never-ending mind numbing questions. We all know it, we take it every year and we dread it every year, teachers and students alike. It is just another time to test your knowledge with the CST tests. These state administered tests are meant to ensure a certain level of knowledge each year from the students and ensure a specific type of knowledge.

It may seem like an alright idea, maybe even a way to make absolutely sure students learn what they need to. Is it working? Well, let’s think. California is still at the bottom of the list of the states when it comes to education, teachers rush to teach students what they need to know for the test, these tests take several days out of teaching and school days are limited as it is and, well, do the results even really mean anything?

Schools are pressured to do well on these tests for various reasons such as money the school gets and rankings against other schools. So, that pressure is passed onto the teachers (so much rides on this one test that there have been teachers changing answers on students tests to improve their scores) and eventually the students. Does “Beat OP” (Beat Oak Park) ring a bell? Then the students are told what rests on this: college acceptance, magic mountain trips, teachers’ jobs, education standards, and so on. Over what? A test.

A test, mind you, that may or may not work. Because of the pressure put on teachers they teach only that material, those standards, and once it’s the week before the tests start, teachers cramming in the standards that they just couldn’t fit in before the test arrived. Sometimes, teachers are so worried about the standards they don’t have time to teach all aspects of a subject, or teach it in a way that may be more beneficial to the student. They only have time for what the state thinks students should know.

There are very few teachers that fits in every single standard before the CST. It just can’t happen, well, it can, but not in a way so students actually learn the material. Are these standards the absolute best for students, and are annual tests really the best way to measure knowledge? Seeing as the only thing changing in California education is fewer days, less money and lower national rankings, I’d have to say no.

But, it’s not just that. With the furlough days in California growing, teachers have even less time to teach the information the state requires and even less time to just teach their subject. In theory, yes, it is a good idea to make sure students are learning and improving, but these tests are obviously not helping, especially if teachers aren’t even given enough time to teach their students.

California is still one of the worst educators in the nation, that alone should be evidence enough that these tests are not obtaining desired results. The CSTs end up wasting teacher’s time as well as students, it takes countless trees and resources to deliver them and, honestly, they’re mind numbing. And not in a good way.

Are these tests really worth all the pressure, stress and resources used on them, especially when they don’t seem to be improving anything educationally and may not even be accurate when it comes to effectiveness?

What do you think?