The debate of whether or not to continue standardized testing has been at the forefront of educational news for some time. Much research points to the fact that the testing does not actually accomplish the achievements that it was created for, as we see that Australian students are still falling behind the academic standards of their international peers – not to mention the intense disparities just within Australia. However, support for standardized testing does continue among some groups who feel that while the tests might be flawed, they still help measure progress, which is helpful in reforming curriculums.
In short, the aims of nationwide tests are to collect data that can be used to better understand student learning, to act as a resource for school systems, to help parents assist their children, and to narrow the gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous students. Obviously these sound like great assets to the national testing program. That is, if they actually achieved such goals without any nasty side effects.
One argument against the testing, aside from whether or not it actually produces positive results, is that this focus on data thus creates a more competitive, number-oriented mindset. This has led to specific scores becoming a national priority for Australia, leaving school curriculums to become focused on teaching for the tests, rather than teaching for the true benefit of expanding students’ knowledge and skill sets.
The new objective then would be to somehow succeed in providing a cultivated educational experience for students of all backgrounds, while encouraging classrooms to focus on broader learning beyond simply test preparation.
A University of Sydney start-up is pointing towards a solution that meets these targets. The company, 300 Selective, is an online technology that aims to help tutor students in a way that adapts to fit the individual needs among the diversity of students.
Upon enrolling, students gain access to full length Selective Tests, online coaching, and quizzes that are tailored to fit the student’s strengths and weaknesses. This platform provides the tools that students need in order to prepare for standardized testing, giving them the ability to master specific skills and learn how to successfully tackle parts of the tests that have proven to be more challenging.
In providing an alternative outlet through which students can train for standardized tests, 300 Selective offers hope for the ability of teachers to actually return to teaching, as opposed to acting as testing tutors. With students getting curated practice on their own time, not only is their studying more efficient but also they are encouraged to have a healthier outlook on taking the exams since they will cease to be inundated with the notion of scoring well while alongside their peers in the classroom.
At present, the Australian curriculum significantly lacks in niche fields like STEM, in comparison to programs in other countries. Many people are critical of the fact that teachers in Australia have limited autonomy in providing students with environments that promote overall learning as opposed to being “testing tutors.” In an effort to keep the nation’s students at a level competitive with their peers abroad, the way in which children and adolescents are taught must shift to become more dynamic. But the only way to begin to move towards a solution is to lift the pressure of scoring well on the standardized tests up and off teacher’s shoulders.
Platforms like 300 Selective can help to initiate this first step towards opening up the doors for classrooms to become actual learning centers, as well as offer a solution to the discussion on nation-wide testing. Students’ progress can still be tracked in a way that benefits the overall implementation of curriculums, but now test preparation will not be at the expense of general education, satisfying both sides of the debate. And, most likely scores will begin to improve unlike they have been, since lesson plans will encourage a broader range of knowledge, in addition to being supplemented by 300 Selective’s individualized program plans. Sounds like a bright idea towards a brighter future.
300 Selective was a recent finalist in the University of Sydney’s Premier $25,000 startup competition; Genesis. The next round is now open: sydney.edu.au/business/genesis
Author: Alannah Paren