Does Standardized Testing Work?


No one can escape standardize testing in the public school system, but does this form of testing work, and why is it so widespread? Standardized testing stirs up a great deal of controversy, and there are quality arguments on both sides.

The Arguments for Standardized Assessment:

The strongest argument for using this method is that it ensures each child an equal assessment opportunity. All students in a given grade receive the same test questions and the same time limits and environment in which to complete the test. With the exception of some writing sections, the test is entirely objective and should not be influenced by the teacher or test administrator in any way. No one can blame a school for skewing the test results or not applying standards universally.

The second strongest argument in support of standardized public school testing is the ease by which schools can administer the tests and analyze the results. Test administrators can easily collect the results, quantify them, and compare them to the results of other pupils and governmental standards.

The Arguments Against Standardized Tests:

The strongest argument against standardized tests is that not all students excel under this format. Standardized tests cater to those with linguistic learning styles who can read and write proficiently. They hamper those who are more visually and spatially oriented. The test format allows for only a very narrow interpretation of a child’s learning, and it forces pencil-and-paper answers for concepts that children may have learned through the use of manipulable materials or other creative learning methods. This deficiency is less apparent with high school students, and therefore standardized tests may be more appropriate for that age level.

The second strongest argument against standardized tests is that the scope of subjects and skills they assess is too narrow. A standardized test most effectively measures memorized factual information. It provides only a mediocre assessment of reading and writing skills, which are more dynamic. Furthermore, it does not thoroughly assess musical or artistic abilities, depth of understanding of advanced concepts, creative thinking or problem solving. These are all important subjects and skills that children need to learn in order to pursue successful careers and lead fulfilling lives.

The final argument against standardized tests is simply that teachers rely too heavily on them. Many teachers fall into the trap of teaching to the test so that they maintain their job and their school’s reputation. This has resulted in erasing many important subjects from curricula and narrowing instruction to align exactly with standardized tests. This often leads to rushed learning as teachers struggle to cram the scope of tested material into the heads of their pupils. Using standardized tests as only one small method of assessing student learning may provide a suitable balance between these advantages and disadvantages.

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