"We test children's learning with admittedly limited tools -- standardized tests -- that were never designed as stand-alone analysis."
The use of standardized tests in American education is widely debated. Pros and cons are thrown back and forth like a tennis ball on the playing field of opinion and educational politics.
In this two-part series on standardized tests, the ins and outs of this hot topic offer a fascinating insight into a complex subject. Part One examined some of the common arguments for standardized testing and explored four specific benefits:
- comparisons and accountability
- Individual progress mapped
- Span different educational options
This insight into the positive side of standardized tests can be foundHere.
This follow-up post will give opponents their time in the spotlight. Critics of standardized testing offer valid objections to consider when deciding the best approach for your children. So without further ado… the downsides of standardized testing.
“Education is the fundamental principle of what makes America successful. It is the foundation of what truly makes our country the 'land of opportunity'.”
Objections to standardized tests
1. It discriminates against bad test takers
Many students do not perform well under pressure in a standardized testing environment. As a result, students who excel on the exam have a clear advantage over students who don't.
Standardized tests do not necessarily measure a student's knowledge and ability. Instead, they reward those who are good at taking tests under stressful conditions. Unfortunately, these tests cannot accurately assess a student's abilities in other important areas, such as critical thinking or innovative problem-solving.
Education researchers published a study in 2018 that shows thisMale and female students consistently perform differently depending on the test format. Male students repeatedly preferred multiple-choice questions, while female students excelled with open-ended questions.
The study concluded that differences in question formats explain about 25% of the differences in performance gaps between states and counties. This raises questions about the accuracy of the test data.
Many also argue that students who consistently underperform on standardized tests are negatively impacted emotionally and mentally. Confidence often dwindles when test after test does not accurately reflect their true skills and knowledge.
Spark approvals investigates this issue further: “… Standardized testing causes otherwise successful students to lose confidence in themselves and their abilities. Many students suffer from exam anxiety, which means that they do not perform at their usual level because they find the exam experience so stressful.”
2. It negatively affects teachers
Critics of standardized tests have noted that the tests have a negative impact on the teachers themselves. American University School of Education outlines somethese objections:
The need to meet certain exam standards forces teachers to “teach for the exam” rather than provide a broad curriculum.(Video) Should we get rid of standardized testing? - Arlo Kempf
Teachers have expressed frustration with the time it takes to prepare and administer tests.
Teachers may feel undue pressure from their schools and administration to improve their standardized test scores.
Standardized tests measure performance against goals rather than measuring progress.
It is widely believed that achievement test scores are highly correlated with instructional effectiveness, a tendency that can unfairly blame good teachers when scores are low and mask instructional deficiencies when scores are high.
Quote taken from "Impact of standardized tests on students and teachers.“
As the National Center for Fair and Open Testingmention, that, quality teaching and effective learning will continue to decline as educators' careers are based on test data rather than worthy teaching methods. It also mentions concern that these conditions will continue to drive current teachers out of the job and will also "dissuade strong young candidates from becoming teachers or school leaders".
Education Week observes that good teachers work with their students through all variables of learning. Teachers know their students inside out; They recognize strengths and weaknesses much better than the tests. With this in mind, it is unfair to penalize both teachers and students for an incomplete progress picture.
3. It identifies weaknesses while neglecting strengths
Another objection to standardized tests is that they merely identify a student's weaknesses. With its limited scope of assessment, this test ignores a student's strengths.
Psychology Today summarizes this scam: “The only thing standardized testsmayThe measure is whether or not a student comes up short... The best a standardized test can tell you about you is that you have no easily identifiable weaknesses. Standardized tests only measure the absence of weakness. They don't measure the presence of strength."
Similarly, there is growing concern that even positive test scores may not reflect a student's true knowledge. Researchers from King's College Londonpublished a study in 2015with unintended effects on the reliability of the test results.
"As students continue to perform better and better on their standardized tests, the question arises: are students improving their broader learning, or are the higher scores the result of post-test teaching?"Ask locations at Penn State. "The greater the pressure on teachers to improve their students' test scores, the more likely teachers are to resort to questionable measures to do so... Interestingly, educators who teach in schools with rising test scores feel the most pressure compared to schools with stagnant ones." or declining test scores.”
However, psychology todayends her earlier objection on a positive note, “However, this is not a clear argument against standardized tests. There's one type of strength they can measure: how well a student passes standardized tests. It's not meant to beonlyKind of strength we're interested in. But neither should it be discarded.”
4. It creates inequality in the classroom
"Students want to be successful, and teachers want their students to be successful, and now more than ever, academic success is measured by test scores... Tests have always evaluated students, but in the age of standardized testing, tests also rank not only public school teachers, but public schools themselves..." This excerpt from Salon.comhighlights another major problem with standardized testing in education.
Standardized testing has a limited view of successful learning and improvement. Rather than looking at each student as a whole person, the child is broken down into specific academic subcategories, such as math or writing. As a result, the test data can give a distorted picture of a student. This can result in some students learning alone while others receive undue attention from the teacher.
Good teachers will work to give their "more difficult learners" a better chance of doing well on their standardized tests. Because of this, teachers can give these students extra attention to help them prepare and learn.
As mentioned earlier, teachers' job security often also depends on test results. This, coupled with a genuine concern for the well-being of their students, can create inequality in the classroom.
“Based on the grades they get in the classroom, a teacher can get a raise or be fired from their job. This leads to a multitude of learning problems”,explains financial blog Vittana.“For starters, only the students who perform poorly in testing simulations receive the most attention from the teacher, leaving good students to fend for themselves. Teachers then start 'teaching to the test' rather than teaching subject materials to achieve the required results.”
Standardized testing has shifted the focus of education from "learning" to "passing." This has also shifted the focus of the teachers in the classroom. Standardized testing typically creates a competitive learning environment that can be detrimental to academic success, quality of instruction, and effective learning.
Standardized Testing: A Balance Sheet
Standardized tests are most likely going nowhere. As a general measure of assessment for students, teachers, and schools, both proponents and detractors recognize that the tests have at least some merit. The trick seems to be to strike a balance between valid uses for the test data and allow for other methods of evaluation.
VitaEducation notes that standardized tests themselves aren't even the bigger problem, at least for some critics.Instead, the results are used like this: “Many objections raised by the anti-test movement are really objections to NCLBs (No child is left behind) use of test results, not to standardized tests themselves.”
Walt Gaertner fromeducation week suggests that the US model its use of standardized tests on Finland. He notes that Finland has “standardised tests exclusively fordiagnosticpurposes and never makes the results public.” As a result, teachers and students benefit without reaping the fear so often seen in American tests.
Critics of standardized testing have offered numerous solutions for a more balanced use of test results. Whether or not Finland's approach is the answer, it seems obvious that both the pros and cons of standardized testing have their merits.
Standardized testing is a helpful tool, though certainly not comprehensive. When combined with data from other sources, it can provide insightful context. For people who have the welfare of their students in mind, good balance seems to be the ultimate goal.
Whitby school sums it up nicely: “To be honest, standardized testing is a very difficult topic because we need itinternal and external reviewsto measure student achievement… Schools and parents should always consider standardized tests not as a value judgment about the student, but as an additional data point that can provide some perspective on student learning.”
Did you miss the first part of this discussion?Read part one here.
The Noah Webster Educational Foundation believes in implementing evidence-based teaching methods in America's classrooms. Would you like to take part in the national education talk? Check out our resources and sign up for updatesnwef.org.
PRO: They help teachers to identify areas for improvement. CON: Standardized tests cause stress and anxiety for children. PRO: They help keep schools accountable to policymakers. CON: Teachers 'teach to the test' which leads to the lower-quality rote learning method of teaching.What are the pros and cons of standardized testing? ›
PRO: They help teachers to identify areas for improvement. CON: Standardized tests cause stress and anxiety for children. PRO: They help keep schools accountable to policymakers. CON: Teachers 'teach to the test' which leads to the lower-quality rote learning method of teaching.What are the main arguments against standardized testing? ›
Opponents argue that standardized tests only determine which students are good at taking tests, offer no meaningful measure of progress, and have not improved student performance, and that the tests are racist, classist, and sexist, with scores that are not predictors of future success.What are the positives of standardized tests? ›
Standardized exams can show student improvement over time by taking the same tests over time. In addition, student test scores can also be easily compared to each other to show changes in progress. Ensure that all educational stakeholders are held accountable.What are the negative effects of standardized testing? ›
That's because standardized tests have a major blind spot, the researchers asserted: The exams fail to capture the “soft skills” that reflect a student's ability to develop good study habits, take academic risks, and persist through challenges, for example.What are the cons of standardized testing research? ›
- Standardized tests only determine which students are good at taking tests, offer no meaningful measure of progress, and have not improved student performance.
- Standardized tests are racist, classist, and sexist.
- Standardized tests are unfair metrics for teacher evaluations.
Standardized testing affects mental health negatively. Standardized testing has high standards that many students fear. These types of tests also cause many parents to expect a certain score for their child. This can cause many mental issues as students are studying for long periods of time and stressing about a test.Do standardized tests cause stress? ›
Stress and its effect on the brain might be one reason that students from low-income neighborhoods tend to fare worse on high-stakes tests. Children are affected by standardized testing, with some seeing their cortisol levels spike on testing days, and others seeing it drop, which might lead them to disengage.Why are tests good for students? ›
Testing helps determine knowledge gaps.
The feedback students receive from frequent testing helps them understand what concepts they might not fully understand and how they should prioritize future study habits, improving their overall learning.
A second advantage is that it can reduce costs by enabling all hotels in a chain to take advantage of economies of scale and negotiate lower prices from suppliers. The main disadvantage to standardization is that it reduces the flexibility of a chain to cater for regional tastes and expectations.
- Pro 1: Homework Helps to Improve Student Achievement. ...
- Con 1: Too Much Homework Can Negatively Affect Students. ...
- Pro 2: Homework Helps to Reinforce Classroom Learning. ...
- Con 2: Takes Away From Students Leisure Time. ...
- Pro 3: Homework Gets Parents Involved with Children's Learning.
When students with disabilities struggle with standardized testing, they may struggle with their self-esteem and question their abilities. The risk of dropping out of school goes up, especially if they can't pass a high-stakes test that is required for them to move on to the next grade level.Why do people dislike standardized testing? ›
Standardized tests reduce the richness of human experience and human learning to a number or set of numbers. This is dehumanizing. A student may have a deep knowledge of a particular subject, but receive no acknowledgement for it because his or her test score may have been low.Why is standardized testing unfair for students? ›
Many believe that scores serve as indicators of future success, but standardized tests fail to assess students in crucial areas such as creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, and artistic ability.Why standardized testing is unfair for poor students? ›
For decades, critics have complained that many standardized tests are unfair because the questions require a set of knowledge and skills more likely to be possessed by children from privileged backgrounds''(p.Does standardized testing cause dropouts? ›
In a study done by Harvard University, it was observed that students who placed in the lower 10% of standardized tests were 33% more likely to drop out, especially when expected to pass an exam for graduation.What affects standardized test scores? ›
Students can prepare for and take the test several times to attain their desired score. Therefore, educational achievement levels are a factor influencing SAT scores. Other factors that scholars and researchers have advanced include socioeconomic, cultural and psychological.Do tests really help students learn? ›
Tests can be especially beneficial if they are given frequently and provide near-immediate feedback to help students improve. This retrieval practice can be as simple as asking students to write down two to four facts from the prior day or giving them a brief quiz on a previous class lesson.Should students have homework pros and cons? ›
- Teachers And Students Working Together. ...
- Brings Families Closer Together. ...
- Teaches The Child How To Be Responsible. ...
- The Child Needs Relaxation Time. ...
- Decrease In Socialization. ...
- Increase In Conflicts Between Parent And Child.
- Preparing, administering, and analyzing the results requires a lot of time, effort, and resources.
- Sometimes the tests can be subjective, so their results are not considered as accurate as they need to be.
- They are not considered the best option to combat the phenomenon of cheating.
What is a potential disadvantage of using standardized tests as a data source in a curriculum evaluation? ›
A big disadvantage of standardized testing is that it's easy to interpret a student's score as the sole judgement of that student's ability.How does standardized testing affect students confidence? ›
These students become too harsh on themselves and develop low self-esteem. Standardized tests also affect motivation in the classroom. Some students may become completely disengaged as they know that test scores can't be more valuable than actual comprehension of the material.When did standardized testing become an issue? ›
Standardized tests have been a part of American education since the mid-1800s. Their use skyrocketed after 2002's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandated annual testing in all 50 states.Do standardized tests affect college? ›
SAT scores help colleges compare students from different high schools. Your scores show your strengths and readiness for college work. But remember standardized test scores are just one part of your college application, along with grades, course rigor, and recommendations.Do standardized tests really matter? ›
Standardized testing can also help standardize individual students' educations. In addition to comparing students against one another or identifying problematic schools or districts, standardized tests can also illustrate student progress over time.What is the fear of standardized testing? ›
Symptoms of Test Anxiety
Mental: Lack of concentration, negative thoughts, comparing yourself to others, catastrophizing (thinking the worst) Emotional: Anger, helplessness, disappointment, fear, dread.
Test anxiety is a common occurrence in classrooms, affecting the performance of students from kindergarten through college, as well as adults who must take job- related exams. Estimates are that between 40 and 60% of students have significant test anxiety that interferes with their performing up to their capability.What do standardized tests really measure? ›
Standardized testing is a practical and accurate way of evaluating what a student does or doesn't know across important areas like math, reading, and writing.Why were standardized tests created? ›
From 1875 through the end of World War I, standardized tests were developed to determine student preparation for college. In 1890, the president of Harvard College proposed a national entrance exam for American colleges.Why colleges should not require standardized testing? ›
There are several reasons why it is more inclusive for colleges to have test-optional admissions. First, research shows that standardized tests do not accurately measure one's intelligence. Second, test registration and preparation are expensive and therefore advantage wealthy students.
Using SAT scores in conjunction with HSGPA is the most powerful way to predict future academic performance. On average, SAT scores add 15% more predictive power above grades alone for understanding how students will perform in college.Who invented homework 😡? ›
Roberto Nevelis of Venice, Italy, is often credited with having invented homework in 1095—or 1905, depending on your sources.What are 3 benefits of homework? ›
Homework teaches students how to problem solve. Homework gives student another opportunity to review class material. Homework gives parents a chance to see what is being learned in school. Homework teaches students how to take responsibility for their part in the educational process.Do standardized tests affect students mental health? ›
This can cause many mental issues as students are studying for long periods of time and stressing about a test. According to soeoline.com, “Standardized testing causes headaches, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, stress and attendance issues”. Standardized testing is also, in some cases, ineffective.How standardized tests affect students? ›
Standardized testing inevitably impacts students' lives and experiences in many ways. Testing can help students feel empowered and do their best. It can also cause stress, anxiety, and competition. Teachers can help make tests a more positive experience by downplaying the stressful elements.Do standardized tests measure intelligence? ›
Standardized tests are made to measure a student's intelligence; however, a person's intelligence should not be determined by how well they can score on a test. There are many factors that can go into a negative test score, one of the main ones being testing anxiety.Why do some people do better on tests? ›
Research shows that what makes these people so good at taking tests is likely a mix of: Low test-taking anxiety which allows them to perform better in the moment. Well-informed schemas that provide greater context and allow them to make more educated assumptions (guesses) especially when the test is multiple choice.Do standardized tests improve student performance? ›
93% of studies have found student testing, including the use of large-scale and high-stakes standardized tests, to have a "positive effect" on student achievement, according to a peer-reviewed, 100-year analysis of testing research completed in 2011 by testing scholar Richard P. Phelps.Why grades are better than standardized tests? ›
Students earn grades based on a wide range of assessments, activities, and behaviors – quizzes, class participation, oral and written reports, group assignments, homework, and in-class work. Standardized tests, on the other hand, are not assigned on such a multifaceted range of factors.Why do colleges care about standardized testing? ›
SAT scores help colleges compare students from different high schools. Your scores show your strengths and readiness for college work. But remember standardized test scores are just one part of your college application, along with grades, course rigor, and recommendations.