A One-Size Fits All Approach Does Not Work: On Charter Schools & Standardized Testing (by Guest Blogger Kyle Billings)

At what point are we going to realize that the one-size fits all approach does not work? Students should get the option of what school they best fit into. Should it be a situation where schools are inherently better than other schools? I think not, however, there should be schools that focus on math and science, and others that focus on visual and musical arts. Some students want to be scientists, whereas others want to be artists. There should not be a problem here.

I think about this and I recall a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson. He speaks of a young lady who couldn’t sit still in class, (whom at this day of age would have been diagnosed with ADHD), and instead of determining that she was not a good student, she was taken to a school that fit her needs. Instead of trying to fit her into a mold that she does not fit into, she went to dance school. She thrived, grew and now she has been incredibly successful.

With standardized testing, we are trying to mine our youth for only one thing. Measurable results. We punish our teachers and schools if students cannot meet the expectations that are set by a testing board that seem to think that one size does fit all. Students are being stripped of their ability to think divergently and creatively so they can color in bubble ‘a’.

In an editorial piece by Bill Gates, Mr. Gates points out that despite what any common opinion, teachers WANT to be accountable to their students. It is just our way of measuring them that is not working. I also do not believe that monetary compensation is the most important thing to our educators. Do we give them opportunities for professional development? What if our educators received stipends so they also could continue their education? In other parts of the world teachers collaborate and mentor each other, teachers need to grow just as students do. Effective teachers will spread effective measures to other teachers given the opportunity. Do we give them that opportunity?


I do not believe that charter schools are an inherently bad thing. Having schools that have enable our youth to focus on what their interests are in can only boost their potential. We do need to have performance measurements, but their needs to be better ways.


In class evaluations by other educators, review by students, looking at artistic and academic improvement are just a few ways that we can move away from the standardized testing. While I agree that there is a certain breath of knowledge that our youth should have when they finish high school, there just needs to be a better way of delivering that knowledge, and evaluating them on it.


I read that Education Reform is going to be the Civil Rights battle of our generation. With everything that I have read recently I am beginning to believe that is correct.



After watching  ‘Do School Kill Creativity?’ do you agree with Sir Ken Robinson? After reading the editorial by Mr. Gates do you agree? Do you think we need to restructure our school systems to allow our youth to flourish? Is our educational system that hasn’t been revamped since the industrial revolution due for a serious look?




14 thoughts on “A One-Size Fits All Approach Does Not Work: On Charter Schools & Standardized Testing (by Guest Blogger Kyle Billings)

  1. I agree that having schools set for certain aspirations that children have would no doubt give better results for that child but those schools are usually very competitive to get in to. Sending a child to an art school is expensive. And seeing that, at a young age, a child might not know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and that they need to know the “basics” such as math and science, (which I know are also a part of the curriculum at art schools), I don’t think it’s necessary to have those specialized schools until they get into high school. At least at that age theyre thinking more about their future aspriations and making the preparations for it (at least some of them). I know this isn’t exactly (or at all) what you’re taking about but I just thought I’d put this up here.

    • I had a lot of the same thoughts as Lisa (which kind of answer your questions). What I always wonder is why we don’t look more at other countries that are succeeding and try to adapt some of their education models. In some other countries I think after high school, or maybe starting in high school you get to choose what route you want to take. There are arts schools, vocational school (career school), one that is more like college, and I think one more type of school. That way they get to focus more on what they are interested in and from what I understand that are achieving at much higher rates.

      I do feel that schools in a way kill creativity. “One size fits all” is definitely the opposite of creative. I know we have talked about things like this before like how testing should be more like the diving part of the driving test. How tests shouldn’t be just standardized multiple choice, that there should be different ways of testing a students knowledge. Then again that brings up the point of you would have to test them fairly and have the same standards.

      Another problem I have with standardized testing is how it is written for a certain demographic (I think that is the word I want to use). What I mean is for students who are not English speaking, (ELL, or ESL), or from a different country they are going to struggle with standardized testing not because a lack of knowledge, but because of the cultural or language difference. In another class of mine we read an article about this, and it said that some students are really smart and may be above grade level in their own language, but when they are tested here they struggle. When so many of our students are minority this is (as if you didn’t already know) a huge problem. So I definitely think there need to be more creative, different ways for our students to succeed.

      • If we do look at other countries we have to look at the cultural factor. I don’t know the facts and if there’s actual data out there but to me it seems like collectivist societies would have a more unanimous, or not as much of an achievement gap, than individualistic societies it seems. And with the States being an individualistic society, adapting collectivist educational systems to it would probably not work as well as we would’ve want it to.

      • Chelsea, I strongly agree with you in that standardized testing is definitely not one-size-fits-all, especially for non-native English speakers. Volunteering at Parkrose in their ESL class it becomes obvious pretty quickly how hard it is for the students in their other general education classes, which are based on the assumption that everyone speaks English fluently. From what I’ve experienced it seems that in their home country they are already behind in their education and then move here, skipping grades and being placed straight into high school, and become even more behind. It is stressful to see these students held to the same standard as native students when they are at a huge disadvantage.

      • Lisa, in the collectivist societies we’ve known the achievement gap was probably smaller, yes, but the overall quality of education wasn’t good, because the school was one the arms of state propaganda.

        The “Achievement Gap” is natural and unavoidable in any society where you are “your own man”. Even when there is an effort to narrow it. To the extent that no human being is equal to another, there will be a difference in achievement. A good education system needs URGENTLY to take this at its basis, and develop strategies to address the socio-economic problems deriving from this basic difference. NCLB is ideologically unsound because it does not take into account this.

        That we all pursue different things at different rates and degrees of application is one thing. But that we need to be poor and have fewer opportunities to live with dignity is not the logical conclusion of that. Trying to deny the first to correct the second, however, is not the right way to go…

    • The one thing that I can be certain on in life is that there is not one single educational format that will work for everybody. The one size fits all approach is not the answer to the educational problem. Kyle, I agree with you when you say that there needs to be schools to enable youths interest. In class, the group has discussed the issue with students being able to transfer to other schools because of the schools educational success, while other schools suffer from lack of student population. Schools should be picked by students by “BEST FIT”, and will enhance and push students to become the best they possibly can.

    • Yes, Lisa took the words right out of my mouth. I feel similarly about kids possibly being too young for specialized schools. People change majors in college when they are supposed adults and sure of themselves. How can we expect children to know what they want to do and stick with a particular program? I think anything this important that has not changed much since the industrial revolution needs an overhaul. More people, even students themselves, understand this. A video of a student at a high school student in Texas telling his teacher that she needed to be a better teacher, interact with students more, and use multiple methods for getting information across to her students went viral this past week. It speaks to the issue that one size fits all is not right. People care about this issue. I don’t believe specialized schools are a necessary thing. Better, more well-rounded schools would suffice.

    • Lisa I agree that high schools should have some type of focus to better prepare the students for there future. Students at this age have a better grasp on what they want to do after high school. Schools can look into what the job market will be needing in the next 10 years and give students the opportunity to build skill sets that will enhance their chances of landing jobs after high school and college. Things such as better computer classes, grant writing classes, skilled labor classes, and web design classes to name a few. Also, schools should partner with local businesses to allow high school students to intern.

      • I agree! We need to provide students with more hands on opportunities that will help pave their way into the future job market, after all that is why we go to school in the first place. More internships, coop programs linking high schools with colleges, job shadowing, classroom visitors/sit-ins, school counselor involvement, college and job fairs, interviewing, resume tips, etc… High school students need a real Home economics class that touches on real life issue, not learning how to bake a cake or raise a flower sac look alike baby.

  2. I read the editorial piece and I would say that I agree. Testing students and using their scores for the basis of a teacher’s pay seems outrageous to me for various reasons. I don’t think that student’s test scores can be a clear indicator of teacher’s ability. As far as our education system needing a reform, I would definitely say so. We know so much more about learning styles and different paths of education that I think reform is necessary. Teachers need more resources in order to be successful at their practice as well as helping their students be successful.

  3. I agree that specialized schooling should come at an older age, but I also feel that different ways of testing and expanding the children’s mind at a younger age is key to successful and creative development in life. Currently we are restricting the creative development of our children dramatically by telling them that their one goal is to do well tests. We are so focused on making sure they can test well that it makes one feel that schools forget that once students are out of college, there is no testing in the real world. None is going to receive a scan drawn at the end of an interview asking how much they learned. This entire method needs to be changed, there are other ways of evaluating growth within students, they may be harder methods but I think they are worth it.

  4. Kyle, I agree with you that the one size fits all doesn’t fit with most students,a nd that it isn’t fair to them. Chidlren of all ages learn and express themselves in different ways, and the fact that they are requiring these students to be tested like this just seems incredibly unfair. It gives all students that don’t learn or express themselves in that way a very real chance of failure. i also agree with you that schools should not be cutting creative departments in shcool, since this is obviously a big way that students are able to learn and exress themselves. I feel that there are so many things that affect the schools and students today, and sadly this is just abnother reason that children are struggling in schools. It will obviously take a lot to get the schools back in better shape again where the students are actually benefitting from being there.

  5. I agree that using just one teaching/testing style will NOT works for all students as there are multiple learning styles, auditory, visual, hands-on, etc. making certain students who may really know the material just not good test takers. This is not fair in using these one time results to determine funding, placement, and access to certain programs for schools. If a teachers success is tracked it should be by progress through Pre-tests and Post-testing after each subject, individually developed to accommodate the students learning style, not a standardized test, this could properly show the level of improvement over the course of the school year allowing more time with students who struggle in a particular subject.
    However, the more concerning issue is the content and curriculum in which is being taught, we may all have different learning styles but we all need to learn the basics. With the highlighting of special interests through charters and privatizing, we lose the importance of the basic fundamentals, reading, writing, math and science, all which we need to be at least introduced to, if we have no interest then so be it, we should pursue our interests but some of the few dreaded classes that I had to sit through in elementary education forced me to learn things I would have never sought to learn out on my own. After the basics, we can pursue our interests, like in college. I agree in waiting to introduce the specialized charter schools until a more mature level than elementary. This also coincides with the idea of collectivism and that many young student could greatly benefit from working together through learning a subject of study at the same time, leaning on and tutoring each other along the way.

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