Is standardized testing necessary?
April 21, 2022
[Opinion] Standardized testing is necessary
In recent years, there have been a wave of complaints from parents, teachers and students alike regarding standardized testing. However, it is important to look past the backlash in order to realize the wide range of benefits that standardized testing can offer.
Across the United States, there are various standardized tests for several purposes such as fulfilling a graduation requirement or gaining a college credit. Some examples of standardized tests are the SAT, ACT, PERT and Advanced Placement (AP) tests.
These tests, in addition to other standardized tests, serve as an objective measurement of education and provide a good metric to gauge areas for improvement.
Many have argued that teachers’ grades are sufficient when it comes to measuring students’ success. In reality, grading practices and class difficulty can vary widely across the nation. For example, in one school, a science teacher may grade extremely harshly while at another school, a science teacher teaching the same subject may be a more lenient grader. This can result in an unfair grading process that can affect students’ GPAs and future college acceptances.
Additionally, like any other human being, teachers can have either a conscious or unconscious bias that can affect the grades they give. For example, they may award a higher grade to a student with good participation or attendance and a low grade to a student who rarely pays attention, even if neither deserve it.
Therefore, standardized tests play an important role when it comes to combating teacher bias and creating an equal playing field for students to display their skills.
Moreover, standardized tests offer meaningful data that can benefit students in marginalized groups. If parents and teachers do not have testing data to ensure that the student is on the right track, there is no opportunity to intervene and get them help before they are far off track. If there were no standardized tests, the community can’t say this school is doing well, this teacher needs help to improve, or this system needs new leadership. Testing is a tool for us to hold the school system accountable to make sure our kids have what they need.
These assessments have highlighted the differences between various teachers, counties and districts alongside having led to improvements in access to instruction for students with disabilities and English learners. Inclusion of marginalized students, such as those with disabilities or English learners, in standardized tests allows us to measure how well the system is doing for these students, and allows us to fill in gaps in instructional opportunity.
Additionally, standardized tests can be useful for teacher evaluations. While there are other components that come into play for a teacher’s evaluation such as student grades, standardized tests provide a universal measure across the nation. Teacher’s test scores can then be compared to how each teacher has helped students master core concepts.
The more data that can be provided, the more accurate the teacher evaluation decisions will be. Teacher evaluations should incorporate as many pieces of data as possible.
Lastly, standardized test scores are good indicators of future success as they can promote academic rigor, which is invaluable in college as well as in students’ careers. The assessments can help students improve test scores and are linked to better adult outcomes such as college attendance, higher incomes and the avoidance of risky behavior.
The information that the SAT, ACT and other standardized tests are now evaluating are essential for all students, not only those who plan on attending a four-year college. They are also helpful for those who plan to participate in Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs or choose to seek employment requiring associate degrees and certificates.
Standardized test scores have long been correlated with better college and life outcomes. As Dan Goldhaber, PhD, Director of the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research summarizes, “students who score one standard deviation higher on math tests at the end of high school have been shown to earn 12% more annually, or $3,600 for each year of work life.”
Overall, it is clear to see that standardized testing has more benefits than downsides as it provides a level playing field for students to prove their skills, a better chance at succeeding in college and a career and is a useful way to measure teachers to see what areas they need to improve in.
[Opinion] Standardized testing is unnecessary
With testing season quickly approaching in schools across the nation, many students are beginning to prepare for their standardized tests. However, the negative effects of these exams seem to outweigh the benefits as the tests can cause problems for both students and teachers academically and mentally.
Many students do not look forward to the designated testing months of April and May. They begin to stress more about passing the tests and focus less on work they have for their other classes. Managing standardized assessments and the course load for their daily classes can be mentally draining and can make it challenging for students to stay on track.
This stress may also result in them falling behind on daily school assignments. With the added pressure of the standardized exams, it can be harder for assignments to be completed on time or turned in at all. Many students who are under great amounts of stress may not test as easily as others, leading to inaccurate results. Having their focus split between standardized tests, daily requirements of their classes and extracurricular activities can be detrimental to a student.
Additionally, the results of these tests do not show the accurate academic level of students. Although tests such as the FSA give marks based on a scale of one through five, the only purpose of these numbers is for the state to see how students have advanced with their outdated standards. Standardized tests fail to provide parents with timely information to help their child at home, and are not customizable to each student that takes the exam. When seeing their scores after testing, students’ self-esteem and confidence can be diminished.
Compared to regular tests taken in classes, standardized tests contain material from the entire course, and cause students to get overwhelmed with reviewing concepts educated to them throughout the year. Although standardized tests are supposed to depict academic levels of students, they disrupt teaching plans and lessons don’t get taught completely before the end of the school year.
For example, in preparation for the Geometry EOC, math teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School provided students with extra review work of lessons from the entire school year. However, some of the topics included in the work have not been taught yet. In addition to this review work, instructors are still teaching their regular curriculum which includes classwork and homework assignments to be completed by students. Since these tests go on for multiple days, they can disrupt previous plans. Oftentimes, by the time e testing season is over, most teachers have little to no time to complete their scheduled lesson plans for the year.
The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) was administered throughout the state of Florida from 1998 to 2014. As a part of Florida’s plan, the FCAT was created to increase the achievement of students by implementing higher standards. This test would be replaced by the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) in the 2014-2015 school year and will end in the 2021-2022 school year. Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed a bill to replace the FSA with a new assessment, titled the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST) for the 2022-2023 school year.
This new exam will be taken three times a year: fall, winter and spring, to determine the growth of students enrolled in K-12 schools in Florida throughout the school year. FAST is regarded as a progress monitoring check-in assessment rather than a standardized test.
The goal of these new assessments include eliminating other standardized exams and better meeting the needs of both students and teachers. Instead of wasting numerous school days to administer the test, it will only take a few hours across three days a year. Growth is established based on the Florida B.E.S.T Standards. Introduced in 2020, these new standards increased the quality of the curriculum being taught, along with making subjects less confusing for students, teachers, and parents.
Overall, standardized tests are not an accurate indicator of where students are academically. The cumulative of assignments distributed by teachers based on the given curriculum should give schools a more precise understanding of how their students are advancing throughout different courses. Standardized testing also pushes back the possibility of lessons being taught to students after the tests are done for the day. These tests only cause more problems for students and staff, and eliminating them entirely would be much more beneficial.