Standardized testing is a controversial topic among teachers, parents, voters and students. Many people claim that standardized testing allows an accurate measurement of student progress and teacher effectiveness, while the other side believes that a one-size-fits-all approach to student evaluation can be uncompromising and even biased. Both sides have valid points. Along with these arguments there are a number of other pros and cons that have been brought up. Let’s take a look at a few:
Pros of standardized testing
Accountability. One of the strongest cases for standardized tests is that educators and schools are held accountable for their students’ test scores. The scores are public records and can have serious consequences for teachers and schools that underperform.
Measurable Analytics. Without explicit test scores, comparison would not be possible. This would make it difficult for states and organizations to examine the performances of different schools.
Structure. Standardized testing provides an established set of standards that all teachers and students work towards together. Benchmarks along the way provide a way to measure student performance over time.
Objectivity. These tests are scored by computers or test-scorers with no vested interest in the students in order to remove bias.
Granular Data. The data that standardized testing produces can be organized by specific criteria such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or special needs. This provides valuable insight into schools’ strengths and shortcomings and can help develop programs targeting areas of weakness.
Cons of standardized testing
Inflexibility. Students who excel in classroom settings may not perform well on tests due to anxiety, unfamiliarity with the test format, family matters, health issues, language barriers, or a number of other common conditions. Standardized tests don’t take personal issues into consideration.
Time-wasting. Because of the huge emphasis placed on high test scores, teachers are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time teaching the specific topics guaranteed to come up on the test. This allows less time for creativity and personalized learning.
Doesn’t measure progress. A standardized test occurs once in the year. This does not provide any measurement of progress. Many believe that a student’s success should be based on their level of growth from the beginning to the end of the school year.
Stress. Teachers and students alike feel the stress of standardized tests. Teachers’ jobs are at stake. Students’ ability to go to college or even graduate are at stake. All based on a couple hours of intense pressure.
Politics. With public and charter schools competing for funds, standardized testing becomes a heavy factor. Many people claim that politicians use standardized test scores to further their own political agenda.
The debate over standardized testing has been going on for years, and will continue as long as they exist. However until an affordable and achievable alternative is convincing enough to change the current legislation, they will remain the norm in classrooms across America.