In most cases, exams play a significant role in any educational system. Indeed, many national curriculums have made passing standardized tests a prerequisite for proceeding to another level, say, career or professional training colleges. If the student passes a standardized test, he or she will then choose to further his or her education or look for a job in various sectors of the economy. In the United States, states such as New York, Massachusetts, and many more have enacted legislation that requires all high school students to pass a standardized test in order to receive a high school diploma. In many states of the United States of America, all students enrolled in high schools do a standardized test and must pass it in order to receive a high school diploma.
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Otherwise, they will find themselves repeating the test until they pass it. In the United States, a standardized test is part of the criterion-referenced tests implemented by stakeholders in the education sector, as an element of the all-inclusive standards-based education reform curriculum. The standards-based educational reform curriculum is an integral program that sets into place novel standards, which aim to enhance the erudition of all students. Clearly, the standardized test has its own implications. For instance, if a student fails to pass the test, then he or she would not receive a high school diploma. We refer to such tests as high-stakes tests.
Over the years, various organizations have come out strongly opposing high-stakes tests. For example, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has repeatedly cautioned against high-stakes tests saying that, stressing on these tests serves to undermine the very fundamental quality of education and puts in danger the egalitarianism of opportunity. Nevertheless, at least all organizations involved in educational matters agree that tests play a significant role in testing the integrity of a student. Perhaps the problem comes when the society emphasizes on such tests. The paper will examine why students should pass a standardized test in order to receive a high school diploma (Perrone 1).
History of Standardized Tests
The history of standardized exams in the United States dates back to the period that followed the U.S Civil War. As usual, each state was responsible for its own affairs, one of them being education. In New York State, the Regents Board became the first to introduce exams. One hundred years later, the board drafted legislation meant to bring major reforms in the education sector. Amazingly, other states such as Texas, Massachusetts, and Washington followed suit in legislating educational reform. This happened in the 1990s. As time went by, stakeholders drafted a document “America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages” that depicted a new educational strategy that all students below sixteen years must meet. In particular, the paper singled out all states to adopt this standard and make it the most esteemed in the world. The paper also advocated that all students who satisfy the board of examiners on different performance-based tests to receive a Certificate of Initial Mastery (Perrone 2-6).
A person owning a Certificate of Initial Mastery enjoyed very many benefits, and that person could choose to enter the job market immediately, further his or her studies by enrolling in a college program, or enroll for a professional certificate to enhance skills. In the past, the standardized test did not serve to segregate bright students from the rest but provided a mechanism of manifold opportunities for success. In other words, the main aim of standardized tests was to guarantee the accomplishment of high-performance standards for the large preponderance of the employed persons. It was now an obligation of every state to ensure that every enrolled student receives the Certificate of Mastery upon completion of studies.
Nevertheless, since then, there have been some slight changes in standardized tests. Students in grade 10 are subject to high school examinations though naturally, most of them complete high school in grade 12. In fact, the comprehensive high school model of the United States eludes students to spend 12 years in public education and provides two alternatives. Firstly, students who do not intend to further their studies take vocationally based courses to prepare them to join the nation’s workforce. Secondly, college-bound students, that is, those who wish to advance their studies, take academic courses as groundwork for their next level. However, educational reform will see all students irrespective of their high school status, come out with some work experience in addition to substantive academic skills, which will enable them to make it in college (Kohn 13).
Why Students must pass standardized test
In the United States, many states have enacted legislation compelling all high school students to pass a standardized test for them to graduate. Among these states is Massachusetts. Primarily, the state enacted the Massachusetts law, compelling high schools to motivate and challenge students to work hard. There were reasons behind this. To the realization of many businesses, high school graduates working in business enterprises were unable to do math or even read a statement. Additionally, there were also complaints from college administrators that high school graduates could not handle college work. This is what compelled the Massachusetts State to enact the law, which will ensure students pass the standardized test, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), before they graduate (Meisels 16-22).
Many states in the United States have imposed standardized exams for a reason. For example, many scholars believe that the strengthening of educational standards and the perking up of academic achievements come because of passing a standardized test. This is the reason why many states insist on passing the standardized test for a student to receive a high school diploma. Standardized tests also help stakeholders to understand the general performance of the school—the test holds the school answerable to its stakeholders.
Additionally, the school is also accountable to students in that at the end of the course, students are able to analyze their achievements based on the level of teaching in their former schools. If at all the blame of students not passing standardized exams lies in the school, then both students and parents can demand reforms aimed at uplifting educational standards. Furthermore, through standardized tests, the government is able to analyze how schools utilize government grants and in case the students of a particular school fail to pass a standardized test, then the government can take decisive action to correct the menace.
Primarily, a standardized test is an examination meant to evaluate the basic knowledge of a student at a given educational level. For example, we all expect high school graduates to be able to calculate math problems or, at least, write an essay in English. Clearly, if high school graduates cannot perform even these simple assignments so paramount in any career, they are bound to fail in their future profession and even in college. In fact, in some countries such as Britain, the national curriculum dictates that no student should miss exams testing fundamental skills such as math, history, and language.
They would not only do the tests in these basic areas but also, they must pass the tests. In a way, this has proved vital to the general development of countries. Undoubtedly, people with basic knowledge of decisive areas can do business without necessarily going for tuition skills in institutions. In addition, such people can serve the military without undergoing basic training, thus, reducing government spending on training. In fact, students should learn some of the basics in high school to avoid unnecessary spending.
The standardized test served as a gauge of measuring the skills of high school graduates to establish whether they will be exemplary either in colleges, or in workplaces. For instance, MCAS as one of the standardized tests evaluates the ability of the student to read, write, and perform math calculations. Students who are unable to meet these conditions will find themselves in a sorry state, as they will have to repeat the test until they are successful. Among the very many mandates of the standardized test is to evaluate people’s skills and to establish whether they meet the conditions in jobs and colleges.
Nevertheless, the mandatory standardized test has created two sides: the opponents and proponents. Each of the two sides has so far stated the reasons for going so. However, many people seem to favor standardized testing as opposed to those who do otherwise. In any education system, testing is mandatory and it serves to evaluate whether students comprehend rules and comply. In workplaces for instance, when confronted by an impediment, students would have learnt measures of solving the problem rather than avoiding it. This explains why passing a standardized test is imperative to graduation.
The proponents of standardized testing believe that the model ensures fairness, as all students go through the same testing and grading criteria. Take for example, writing. In writing, assessors can award students based on how many examples that are able to state. Some people might think that this is unfair especially to English students but on the contrary, it is not. Let those students who have knowledge show their prowess. In fact, the standardized test score would determine how much the student knows, and whether students pay maximum attention to what they are doing. In addition, if such students proceed to professional training institutions such as law school, medical school, or graduate school, they will find it easier to pass similar tests for certification in a career field (Kohn 13-18).
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Although the opponents of standardized test assert that teachers only teach for the test, it does not make standardized test defective. If for example, we leave out human scoring out of the question and subject students to the test, then the effect is a simple one, to assess and document. The standardized test gives opportunity to every student to show his or own potential in handling tasks. While individual performance may not be perfect, at least it helps teachers to understand the average performance of the class or school.
Through this, school administrators can figure out faults within their curriculum framework thus, work towards amending it. Though students across Unites States learn different subjects, the truth of the matter is, there are basics in every subject aimed at instilling proficiency before a student graduates. The opinion of many Americans on standardized tests is that they serve eliminate subject factors form evaluation.
Standardized tests play a significant role in selecting students who will join colleges or universities. Undoubtedly, based on standardized tests, admission committees have found it easier to select students for different careers based on their subject scores. As we all know, universities and colleges admit students not on excellent grades or poor scores, but on a certain criteria. In any case, such institutions should not select students on great-standardized performance or poor scores, but rather on student ability. Indeed, the standardization of these tests warrants all students equal opportunity, as the students take the same material. It is also imperative to note that the grading criterion is standard and hence, the test scores notwithstanding the person scoring them—at least to spell out any form of biasness.
The other reason why student have to pass a standardized test to receive a high school diploma is that, the test gives a glimpse on how students will perform in their next level. A good example id the MCAS whose core mandate is to evaluate the skills of students, which are necessary in a medicals school or any other professional school. However, it is also important to note that good grades do not mean a student will perform exemplary in a medical school. This is a matter of probability.
According to the recent studies, scholars indicate that a high probability of students with high-standardized test grades than those with low scores. Standardized testing shows a high degree of validity and dependability. They are general and repeatable meaning, students have the second chance to correct their initial mistakes. So far, the subjective assessment method has proved to be the most efficient in evaluating skills and knowledge of a certain faction. In certain cases, the standardized score does not reflect the amount of body of knowledge a group posses. Amazingly, many people prefer taking standardized tests since, it provides useful information that is paramount somewhere (Ravitch 172- 179).
Some people disparage standardized tests saying that they create biasness among other factors. They even go ahead and say that the test does not reveal the real identity of the student simply because—students attend different schools and hence learn differently. However, the main question is why some students score highly in the test and others fail. This means that the class learnt things that matched the test. Other people also think that standardized test make the teacher to cover the tested areas only leaving out the rest (Popham 8-15).
Standardized tests enable the comparison of students not relative to other students in the same class, but to other students in different states as well. Countries need men and women who have enormous knowledge to run businesses, serve in the armed forces and other government institutions, serve in the academic and manufacturing industries, and other sectors of the economy. This is achievable by testing all students to establish their level of knowledge. Clearly, analyzing the views of both the proponents and opponents of standardized tests, the advantages of standardized tests outdo the disadvantages. In particular, since the standardized test serves to identify the amount of knowledge and skills a student has, it is important that a student should pass a standardized test to receive a high school diploma.
Kohn, Alfie. (2000) High-Stakes Testing as Educational Ethnic Cleansing. The Education Digest, 66(1), 13-18.
Meisels, Samuel. High stakes testing in kindergarten. Educational Leadership, 46(7), 1989, 16-22.
Perrone, Vito. ACEI Position Paper on Standardized Testing. Association for Childhood Educational International. 1991. Print.
Popham, James. Why standardized tests don’t measure educational quality. Educational Leadership, 56(6), 1999, 8–15.
Ravitch, Diane. The Uses and Misuses of Tests, in the Schools We Deserve. New York: Basic Books.1985. Print.