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The Cons of Standardized Testing

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The Cons of Standardized Testing In past decades, tests were given to students to decide their placement in classes or to determine which students needed to be placed in resources class. Today, standardized tests are used for arbitrating the success or failure of students, teachers, and schools. “Despite their biases, inaccuracies, limited ability to measure achievement or ability, and other flaws, schools use standardized tests to determine if children are ready for school, track them into instructional groups; diagnose for learning disability, retardation and other handicaps; and decide whether to promote, retain in grade, or graduate many students. Schools also use tests to guide and control curriculum content and teaching methods” (Fair Test, 2007). On top of that, should one test at the end of a school year determine if a teacher was successful? No! A teacher’s success should be determined on the children’s learning throughout an entire school year based on many different assessments; this should be the same for children’s success. Students and teachers need to be held accountable for their success but not by administrating a standardized test. Standardized testing has become a political issue. When schools are tested they are compared to other schools in there state and nationally which permits politicians to display their concerns about certain school systems. You see, in the political world politician’s show their concern with our schools by attaching standardized tests, accountability, and tougher standards to the educational system. They are making the decisions even though they are not in the classrooms and finding out what methods successfully assess students. Do standardized tests truly provide an objective measure of achievements? If not, then what do they measure? “Standardized tests are based in behaviorist psychological theories from the nineteenth century. While our understanding of the brain and how people learn and think has progressed enormously, tests have remained the same” (Kohn, 2004). Children learn by connecting what they already know with what they are trying to learn. By doing so, children are taking charge of their own learning. This is one of the many ways children are successful in the classroom! If children cannot actively make meaning out of what they are doing, they do not learn or remember. Students must make these connections in order to remember, recall, problem solve, and learn. Standardized tests are based on recall of isolated facts and narrow skills. Who would agree that multiple-choice tests are a poor indicator of student performance? Multiple-choice tests fall short when it comes to measuring the ability to write, use math, make meaning from text when reading, to understand scientific methods, social concepts, reasoning, or life skills. But wait, this is not important to the politicians who only want to compare scores, raise standards, and take away funds from schools who perform low on these tests. At least students have a higher chance of answering correctly with multiple choice tests. Thus another reason why standardized testing is not the right choice for assessment. When students, teachers, and schools are evaluated based on the test performances what happens is teachers must “teach to the test.” Teacher’s careers are based on their student’s performances which places an extremely high amount of pressure upon them during the school year to teach every skill that will be on the test. Teaching to the test narrows the curriculum. Teachers want their students to score high on the standardized test so they will have a job, which means they want to teach those skills that will be on the end of the year test. This is unfair to our students. We are teaching students how to improve their test-taking skills instead of improving their academic knowledge and higher order abilities. If a teacher wants to evaluate a student’s reading performance does she/he give him a multiple choice quiz or ask the student to write a paragraph? No, the teacher has the student read literature or passages and assesses the student’s reading performance by the number of words read per minute, how many words mispronounced, did the student self-correct, etc. So why are we using standardized testing? Citizens, politicians, and some parents might say that standardized test provide accountability for teachers and schools. This is false! These tests measure as diminutive and as inadequately as multiple-choice tests cannot provide authentic accountability. Pressure for teachers to teach to the test distorts and narrows our children’s education (Fair Test, 2007). Teachers and schools are being accountable to the unregulated testing industry rather than to students, parents, and their community. Teachers are under attack! Teaching that helps students understand ideas from the inside out, that sustains their interest in understanding, and connects learning with life experiences is under siege. One story can stand in for thousands: “Not long ago, a widely respected middle-school teacher in Wisconsin, famous for helping students design their own innovative learning projects, stood up at a community meeting and announced that he "used to be" a good teacher. The auditorium fell silent at his use of the past tense. These days, he explained, he just handed out textbooks and quizzed his students on what they had memorized. The reason was very simple. He and his colleagues were increasingly being held accountable for raising test scores. The kind of wide-ranging and enthusiastic exploration of ideas that once characterized his classroom could no longer survive when the emphasis was on preparing students to take a standardized examination” (Kohn, 2004).
Is this what schools across American are becoming? Are there better ways to assess student achievement without using standardized testing? Yes! Kohn (2004) suggests: good teacher observations for all teachers throughout the school year, documentation of their student’s work i.e. portfolios, documented performance-based assessments, set rules that teachers must use different types of assessments all day long- everyday in their classroom, and provide useful material for the teachers, parents, community, and the government. Schools and teachers can be held accountability without the use of severely flawed standardized testing. Other countries evaluate student performance based on real work. Students must write essays and complete projects and activities instead of taking a standardized test. Paradoxically, researchers have found that these countries scored higher than U.S. students on standardized test because their teachers did not “teach to the test.” It does appear that the U.S. will be moving away from standardize test any time soon, so our students will continue to be deprived and hurt from our educational system. So, teachers do what it is required to prepare students for these tests and then get back to the real learning. References Kohn, Alfie. (2004). Practical Strategies to Save Our Schools. Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/stdtest.htm#null
How Standardized Testing Damages Education. (August 2007). Fair Test- The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. Retrieved from http://www.fairtest.org/facts/howharm.htm
Pollard. (2002). Measuring What Matters Least. Retrieved from http://www.standardizedtesting.net/
What's Wrong With Standardized Tests? (December 2007). Fair Test- The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. Retrieved from http://www.fairtest.org/whats-wrong-standardized-tests

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