Frequent testing impedes on students’ ability to learn new information and apply it correctly in their lives. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, rules that schools are accountable for performance of the students. Moreover, harsh sanctions are put in place for those school districts that do not meet the “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP. The act also requires schools to administer standardized tests and report the results to the state. Subjects such as math, reading and writing are commonly found on these assessments, causing school districts to stray away from other important subjects i.e. social studies, foreign language and the arts. The standardized test movement has changed the very nature of education and learning by forcing educators to focus on test-taking skills rather than important concepts. These assessments do not further contribute to educational growth because they questions are generalized, they instill fear of failure in students, and they do not allow for teachers to update their pedagogical methods.
The original intent for high-stakes testing was to sort the massive inflow of students at the turn of the century. Slowly, they became a way to evaluate schools and their efficiency. States can determine whether a school is fulfilling the responsibility of effective teaching or not by the results of the tests. It makes sense for there to be a way to evaluate if a school is up to state standard, but there needs to be a surefire way to measure student improvement. Standardized assessments are created from an outside source other than the school that is administering them. Many educators and experts work tirelessly to develop these assessments, but what they do not understand is that each student has their own method of learning. Developers of standardized tests are not in the classroom with these students daily. So how can they cater to these individuals? They cannot. Teachers interact with students every single day, and they know and understand what works best for their students.
Since the tests are standardized, all students in the state must take the same assessment. This leads the questions to be general in nature. The questions do not evaluate the skills of the students simply because the questions are vague. When developing these tests, an important factor is not considered; each student learns at a different pace. For English language learners, it becomes difficult to take these tests that are in English. Another critique on standardized testing, emphasizes the belief that tests are procured for the sole purpose of holding schools and teachers accountable for their student’s performance. Teachers abandon their original curriculum to prepare for the high-stake test. This causes teachers to become test-taking instructors instead of meaningful mentors. Test-writers have even admitted that they write questions they know students are unable to answer. This is to create a wide score spread, which makes the test more desirable for a school to purchase and administer. With this mentality, the test scores do not accurately reflect the main curriculum. The main goal should be to expose the minds of the youth to new ideas and provide deep explanations of the world around them. If making money from a test is the goal, it must not even be considered; although it is considered.
Testing becomes the focus in a classroom. Teachers spend countless hours obsessing over the content of the tests. Any student will admit, their teacher has told them for multiple choice questions, “there are four choices that all may seem to be the right answer, but only one is the true answer.” “Don’t be too creative. Don’t think too hard. Only give them what they want. Pace yourself.” These phrases are becoming too frequent and they hinder the creativity and critical thinking necessary for effective learning. Creative children are stumped when they see the questions on the assessments. It teaches them that there is only one viable answer and there is no room for creativity. Standardized tests look at the final step rather than the learning journey. A more effective way to measure student learning would be to measure their improvement through classroom assignments. The instructor can create projects to highlight creativity and free thinking. The stress of standardized testing falls upon the student as they fear they will not pass. No one should take a high-stakes test in an anxious state. These tests are administered to thousands of students. It is unlikely that every single student can be present on test day. There are actual instructions on what to do if a student throws up on a test. Under these circumstances, it is counterintuitive to believe that a child can demonstrate their full capabilities of what they have learned. A student in South Carolina responded to standardized tests by saying, “All they care about is the test; they don’t care if we learn anything.” Learning success should be valued more than success on tests.
A handful of students do not show much concern for the tests and do not fully understand the consequences. Students fill out the bubbles on the exam sheet so that they form a picture, thus getting the answers marked incorrect. These students are then placed in a low-level class for the following years of their educational career. Apparently, results from a single exam are enough evidence to show the full capabilities of students, even when they lack care for the assessments.
High-stakes testing is not causing students to excel in their learning. Standardized tests hold schools and teachers accountable for their students. Rewards and punishments are given based on test results. Politics and money are too much involved in education. Students need to be taught in a way where they want to engage in school activities. When they show interest in a subject, students will excel. Weeks of test preparation distract teachers from teaching other non-tested subjects. Learning is a complicated process where the person uses their past experiences to make inferences of the world surrounding them. Standardized testing lacks creativity; a new way must be implemented to promote critical thinking in today’s students.
10 Big Advantages and Disadvantages of Standardized Testing. Conncectusfund.org. Connect US Fund. Accessed 28 Nov. 2017.
Brooks, Martin. Brooks, Jacqueline. “The Courage to Be Constructivist.” The Constructivist Classroom. vol. 57, no. 3, 1999, pp. 18-24. Accessed 28 Nov. 2017.
Herman, Joan L., and Shari Golan. “Effects of Standardized Testing on Teachers and Learning–Another Look.” (1990)
Simmons, Nicola. “(De)grading the Standardized Test: Can Standardized Testing Evaluate Schools?” Education Canada. vol. 44, no. 3, 2004. Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.