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Standardized Testing: Help or Hurt Students? Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 5th, 2021

Standardized testing is the core of modern education system aimed to improve assessment procedures and methods. It is considered that the efficient and effective assessment of standards is posed as objective standardized testing that can accurately determine school, educator, and student achievement of the standards. Through this allegedly accurate and efficient assessment, students and schools are compared and ranked in relation to student achievement of the standards. In addition, all stakeholders are held accountable for their effort in student mastery of the standards. In spite of apparent benefits of standardized testing is hurt students and limits their creativity and educational achievements.

The main limitation of standardized testing is the notion of accountability. It is considered that the proposition is that the level of their accountability for the standardized test scores of the students can be efficiently determined, and punishments and rewards can be applied to spur greater accountability. In practice, schools and colleges develop different standards and tests aimed to show high level of knowledge and skills. However, this view of standards as a generic concept is subjective and inaccurate because it does not determine students’ mastery and skills. The standards are certainly not a complete or accurate picture (Boaler 502).

Standardized tests hurt students because they put limits on their achievement and educational process. The nature of standards and the purpose and effectiveness of standardized testing as the sole determinant of student learning are far more complex phenomena than the simplistic representations that are made to the public. In fact there are many types of standards and assessments that represent diverse purposes and result in quite different consequences for all educational stakeholders and society. An understanding of the complexity of standards and accountability can inform the increasingly contentious debate over the current standards and accountability reform (Moses 28). As more individuals are affected by the implementation of this reform, understanding the diverse views on standards and accountability through assessment becomes a critical activity (Wasserman 28). Educators and students are held accountable for the learning of technical standards by the results of a standardized test. An emphasis on standardized testing as an accountability measure has a long history and a pervasive presence in American education. Besides the well-known achievement tests such as the SAT, ACT, and GRE, many industries utilize standardized tests to rank and sort potential employees and to gauge an individual’s ability or suitability. However, there are other types of assessments that perform similar and different functions. The fundamental difference of different types of assessments is reflected in the multiple purposes of assessment.

Standardized testing limits students’ creativity and talents. To ensure student learning, all types of standards are aligned with instructional techniques that promote the philosophy in which the standards are grounded (Dance in an Age of Standardized Testing 7). An examination of how the standards are delivered to the students also uncovers the essential differences between the different views on standards (Moon et al 49). A comprehensive examination of the instructional component of learning must include all of the elements of the instructional system. In any educational system, the function of assessment is to determine how well the system’s philosophical purposes have been implemented. Ideally, the philosophical purposes are achieved through an alignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, in that each of these components of the learning process is guided by the philosophy that drives the process. The mantra of the current educational reform movement—standards, accountability, and testing—is indicative of this alignment (Jorgenson and Vanosdall 601).

Poor knowledge and skills of teachers and educators lead to inadequate tests and low scores obtained by many students. Historically, the power to set educational policy and standards has rested with the local school entity (Hilliard 293). Local schools were empowered by their state governments to set standards that best served the local interest. However, in the latter part of the twentieth century, this local autonomy has diminished with the growth of state and federal control. Issues involving economic prosperity and educational equity fostered this lessening of local control. Proponents of increased state and federal control have argued that local control created pockets of economically and socially disadvantaged individuals who suffered from conditions that could only be changed through external mandates. Prior to the increased federal and state mandates, parents, businesses, and other local interests experienced a greater degree of autonomy in setting educational standards. The point is that standards and their accompanying assessment have the potential to seriously impact students (Haladyna. 262). Therefore, determining who should make the standards and their assessment is a serious decision. An understanding of how this question may be answered involves a discussion of three aspects of who should make the standards: those individuals who are positioned within the great divides, the issue of relevance (Jorgenson and Vanosdall 601).

Many standardized tests are irrelevant and do not assess real knowledge and skills of a subject. All those who participate in the construction of educational standards are concerned about the relevance of the standards. However, the essential question related to relevance is: To whom are standards relevant? This is an essential question because of the central role that education plays in reproducing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that constitute American society. Therefore, what is taught in schools is of central importance—of great relevance—to any individuals or groups who want their ideas firmly entrenched in American culture.

One way to create the potential for the entrenchment of their ideas is to ensure that educational standards represent what they consider to be appropriate knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Therefore, different types of standards are related to the different views of individuals and groups (Jorgenson and Vanosdall 601). For instance, student-centered standards will accommodate the diverse needs of students and consequently provide them with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will enable them to lead socially rich and productive lives within a rapidly changing information society. These standards do not include a basic knowledge base in all subjects that would be posed in an interdisciplinary context that recognizes the interconnectedness of knowledge and the fact that knowledge changes at a rapid pace. Critical thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, are not included in the standards (Boaler 502).

In sum, standardized tests limit students’ creativity and achievements. Most of them are subjective and irrelevant preventing educators to assess real achievements and knowledge of each student. Because of their focus on only certain aspects of a knowledge base or specific skills, single assessment instruments are believed to have great difficulty in capturing the holistic nature of real-life experiences. Because the learning of the knowledge and skills that are a part of standardized tests approximates real-life experiences, the assessment of these standards is not multiple and authentic.

Works Cited

Boaler, J. SPECIAL SECTION ON HIGH-STAKES TESTING: “When Learning No Longer Matters Standardized Testing and the Creation of Inequality”. Phi Delta Kappan, 84 (2003): 502.

Dance in an Age of Standardized Testing. The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 72 (2001): 7.

Haladyna, Th., Haas, N., Allison, J. Continuing Tensions in Standardized Testing. Childhood Education, 74 (1998): 262.

Hilliard, A.G. Excellence in Education versus High-Stakes Standardized Testing. Journal of Teacher Education, 51 (2000): 293.

Jorgenson, O., Vanosdall, R. High-Stakes Testing – the Death of Science? What We Risk in Our Rush toward Standardized Testing and the Three R’s. Phi Delta Kappan, 83 (2002): 601.

Moon, T.R., Brighton, C.M., Callahan, C.M. State Standardized Testing Programs: Friend or Foe of Gifted Education. Roeper Review, 25 (2003): 49.

Moses, L. Rethinking Standardized High-Stakes Testing. Childhood Education, 78 (2001): 58.

Wasserman, S. Quantum Theory, the Uncertainty Principle and the Alchemy of Standardized Testing. Phi Delta Kappan, 83 (2001): 28.

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