Motivated by Neglect: Concentrating on the Top Performing Students and Leaving the Lower Performing Students Behind

November 12, 2012 at 7:04 AM

What would students do if there were no tests?  Questioning the validity of testing measures calls us to be brave.  It charges us as practioners to review the research and look past the elephants bickering in the corners of our classrooms and kitchens, holding foreboding signs that shout, “We have always done it this way?”  What on earth will the parents say?”  “How will children learn self-discipline and study skills? And “How will my child prepare himself for the rigors of tomorrow’s workforce?”  To question the homework default puts us in a position to be advocates and stewards of the children we teach and reflect upon our own motives and methodologies for assigning nightly work.  We must put on research-laden armor and prepare to speak up and out at faculty meetings, meet-the-teacher nights, and parent-teacher conferences.  However, as a result, ‘ultimately, it’s not enough just to have less tests or even better constructed tests.  We should change the fundamental expectations in our schools so that students are asked to take tests home only when there’s a reasonable likelihood that a particular assignment will be beneficial to most of their subsequent work.  The bottom line:  Use tests except for those occasions when it’s truly necessary. 

To follow this charge, we need rich and provocative discussions about standardized test policies, consistent test schedules, the effect of tests on struggling learners, how tests is filling a nation of readers, and what types of tests meet the definition of ‘truly necessary.’  We need discussions that make us sweat just a little but because our responsibility is to our children, not to politics and precedents.  What if we paused and rethought the tests default based, not on pressures and precedents, but on what research suggests about tests and achievement.

For the last few decades, the time children have been devoting to organized sports and outside activities has declined substantially while independent reading time remains limited and time spent on homework has climbed sharply.  As educators, we have seemingly already decided that the small correlation between homework and achievement in the middle grade is in fact causation.  But it’s just as plausible that students who like school and excel at school are more likely to spend more time doing tests than students who do not like school and don’t excel at school and that motivation and level of achievement result from in-class learning, not time on tasks outside school.  These interpretations however don’t soothe our trepidations about achievement gaps.

Sign Up for E-News

Most secondary science teachers for instance are familiar with a depressing pattern of scores on early exams and assignments seem to establish how well nearly all students will do in a course.  Nothing the professor does in the any subsequent weeks of instruction today, seems to help students who start out poorly.  However, in terms of college readiness, the SAT Report on College & Career Readiness indicates that 57 percent[i] of students will have difficulty maintaining a B-minus average or better in college during their freshman year.  A higher grade point average often correlates with student retention, with these falling below the DSAT benchmarks more likely to quit college.  More students than ever are taking their SAT college preparedness test, but the average scores are flat or slightly down.  Only 43 percent of SAT takers in the Class of 2012 academically ready for college.  In Connecticut, the average 2012 reading score fell three points, from 509 to 506.  The average math score was 512, a point lower than the 512 average score in 2012.  Writing scores dipped three points, from 513 to 510.  Nationwide, the average reading score in 2012 was 496, down from 597 in 20122.  The average math score was 514, the same as last year.  Writing was down a point, from 482 to 481.  Keeping in mind that the most a student can score on any section is 800.  Some say the nation’s heavy emphasis on testing is making things worse, not better.  Selective colleges use the SAT only to decide which applications should be quickly considered to the dumpster.  They always have more applicants with scores above 2000 than they have room for.  SAT distinctions at that level have no meaning, so admissions office find other ways to cull the herd.  Long term SAT trends may illuminate what a terrible job we are doing teaching reading and writing, but we should already know that.  Fewer colleges every year require applicants to take the SAT or the ACT.  Also, important is the fact that 875 accredited bachelor-degree granting colleges[ii] and universities do not require all or many applicants to submit test scores before making admissions decisions. 

Historically, the United States’ educational system has reacted to the perceived threat to global competition by withering autonomy, tightening the bolts of control, and calling for increased testing.  This was evident in bipartisan rollout of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.  But a scan of the global front reveals that teachers in top-performing nations, such as Japan, Denmark, and the Czech Republic, assign less homework compared to their low performing counterparts in Greece, Thailand, and Iran.  US. Teachers lead the charge in making testing a high stakes event, with irony.  If caught in an unguarded moment, many teachers and parents will attest to the aforementioned perils of homework, yet moments later will redress in political correctness and process that tests teach self-discipline and study skills, not realizing there is a void of research supporting such claims.  Most adults work eight to 10 hour days and expect unstructured time in the evening to complete Household chores and connect with families, hobbies, and interest.  But tests deprive children of the same use of their nonwork hours spent preparing.  We need to give serious thought to the people that corner us and deride all our interests tell us that they were unimportant, then go on to spend hours tells us about their own interests and just how important and significant they were and they are.  Unfortunately, many student never find that “changed environment” or those space at school.  Where they do find them is while playing on the ball field, making discoveries when their intrinsic motivation inspires tem to press forward. This is a very different lived live than the one teachers currently offer here we send children home with structured testing rubrics, calling for narrow interpretations, and promising punitive measures if left undone or completed outside the boxes that teachers have outlines for them to master.  This testing experience is in opposition to what happens when people are engaged in authentic tasks with intrinsic motivations.  You can invest an enormous amount of yourself, your life, our time and nothing may come of it. 

[i] College Board 2012.

[ii] College Admissions.  Colleges Adjust Admissions standards for 2012-2013.  19, September 2012.


 The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Rotary Club of Berkeley Heights Congratulates Michael Shapiro

December 8, 2016

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -  Michael Shapiro, CEO & Publisher of, a network of 60 independently owned and operated online local newspapers in New Jersey and New York, with over 5 million readers, is a recipient of the Toast to Scouting Award by the Patriots’ Path Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The Toast to Scouting recognition was presented to Mr. Shapiro by The ...

One Million of a Kind: Summit Area YMCA Joins NBC TODAY Show’s #ShareKindness Initiative

SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Area YMCA has joined the #ShareKindness initiative, an effort championed by the YMCA of the USA and the NBC TODAY Show to inspire one million acts of kindness in one month from viewers across the country. As part of the initiative, The Y has committed to share 10,000 acts of kindness representing the 10,000 communities that The Y serves.

Individuals ...

Free A Cappella Workshop in January

Free A Cappella Singing Lessons Offered by Women’s Chorus

The Hickory Tree Chorus chapter of Sweet Adelines International invites women singers to register for its free “Sing A Cappella Series” of vocal workshops. Women will learn to sing chord-ringing, fun-filled, four-part a cappella music, Wednesdays, 7:15pm, January 4, 11, 18, and 25 at The Shrine of St Joseph, 1050 Long ...

Four Years to the Day After Tragedy, Documentary 'Newtown' Screens in Summit Dec. 14

SUMMIT, NJ - 'Newtown', a documentary by Kim A. Snyder that chronicles the aftermath of the deadliest shooting of schoolchildren in American history -- a shooting that took the lives of 20 elementary school children and six educators -- will be screened locally on December 14 at MONDO. The film's showing coincides with the four-year anniversary of the tragedy in Newtown, CT, ...

Our Town

December 5, 2016

To the Editor:

The past few years have brought on a numerous number of debates, the Redevelopment Act, new town hall, change in our downtown area, the Supreme Court ruling on COAH to name a few. Many of you know I do not agree with some of the above BUT I am only one person. I have learned to sit and study the different situations to understand them by researching.
The other thing that we ...

Letter to the Editor by Edmund Tom Maciejewski

Dear Editor,


In accordance with a ballot question that was passed in November 2005, Berkeley Heights switched from a Township Committee form to a Mayor-Council-Administrator form of government under the Faulkner Act or OMCL ( Optional Municipal Charter Law ).

There are 4 categories of municipalities under the Faulkner Act. The Mayor-Council-Administrator form that was chosen by ...

Beckerman’s Theory of Everything

Any armchair theoretical physicist knows that Stephen Hawking has pursued a lifelong quest to come up with a Theory of Everything. This all-encompassing theory would tie together general relativity (large scale and high mass galaxies, stars, etc), quantum theory (quantum mechanics, quarks, atoms, subatomic particles), and Newtonian physics (gravity on small bodies, gas laws, electromagnetism) to ...

The Mayor's Roundtable November Edition

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Mayor's Round Table is a monthly show hosted by Dr. Donald DeFabio, who sits with Mayor Robert Woodruff to talk about current issues that affect the township as well as answer questions submitted by citizens. 

Included in this episode are discussions regarding the next step to creating a Peppertown Park committee; Board of Education ...

Shannon's six week transformation story

Shannon just finished her 6 Week Transformation, here were her results: 

Dropped 2 Pant sizes
Energy Level went from a 2 to a 9
Confidence level from a 5 to a 9

She was very happy and satisfied with these results, but the best result was taking her focus off the scale! For years Shannon only measured her success for her health by weight loss.

When we sat down in the ...

Upcoming Events


Fri, December 9, 5:00 AM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Give Back & Help a Local Animal Shelter

Giving Back


Fri, December 9, 5:00 AM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Merry Fitness – A Program To Get You Through The ...

Health & Wellness


Fri, December 9, 12:00 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Duplicate Bridge at the Y

Arts & Entertainment

Fri, December 9, 12:00 PM

Berkeley Heights YMCA, Berkeley Heights

Enhance Fitness

Health & Wellness

Fri, December 9, 12:30 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit


Arts & Entertainment


Fri, December 9, 12:30 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Mah Jongg

Arts & Entertainment

Which is Best: Lump Sum or Pension Annuity?

Is a lump sum offer from an employer a better choice than a pension annuity for life? The former provides an immediate up-front amount (say $300,000), but the pension annuity gives you a stream of payments for life (example: $1,350 per month). A number of employers dangle a lump sum offer to employees in part to remove future liabilities from their balance sheets. It’s tempting for ...