The Debate on Standardized Testing in Schools

Standardized testing has been both criticized and applauded by educators, politicians, principals, teachers and students. While some find the tests to be superficial and unnecessary, others insist that they are crucial to measuring long-term potential in students. Here, the educational technology experts at Schoolmart weigh in on the standardized testing debate.

The Benefits of Standardized Testing

Consistency in Education

The stated goal of standardized testing is to assess a consistent set of skills for each grade level across the United States. This helps to ensure that every student, regardless of the school district in which they reside, receives a well-rounded, quality education that is very similar to the education a child in the same grade receives in a different school. If a family decides to move to a different school district, they can be confident that their child will be able to easily transition to a different classroom. This also allows educators, parents and legislators to compare test scores across schools, districts and even states, which can help to determine which areas require more funding or focus.

Objective Results

Computers are used to grade the multiple-choice portion of standardized tests, ensuring students tests are graded fairly and accurately. Even when a person is used to grade written response portions of the exam, the grader does not personally know any of the students whose tests they are grading, and so objectivity is maintained.

Analysis of Sub-Groups

After scores are compiled, the performance of various sub-groups on standardized tests can be analyzed. These sub-groups may be based on race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or disability. By analyzing the performance of sub-groups, initiatives can be created, or funding can be provided, to help address the improvement of scores in any sub-group.

Accountability and Recognition of Schools and Teachers

Standardized testing allows school districts to hold individual schools, and even teachers, accountable for the quality of the education they are providing to their students. If a school or teacher’s class is consistently underperforming on the test, resources can be dedicated to helping to improve their scores. Additionally, if a school or teacher’s class is consistently producing higher than average scores, it creates the opportunity for other educators to learn from them and improve the overall quality of education that is being providing.

The Drawbacks of Standardized Testing

Standardized Tests May Not Provide an Accurate Picture of Student Ability

When a student takes any sort of test, it provides a snapshot of their ability on a particular day, and their score may not reflect their overall yearly progress, or general ability to understand the concepts being tested. If a student is feeling sick, stressed, or tired on the day a standardized test is given, this may negatively impact their ability to perform during the test, even if they would otherwise know and understand the concepts being tested. Some students may also exhibit chronic test anxiety, and therefore will not perform well under such stressful circumstances, regardless of how well they know the content.

Teachers May Only “Teach to the Test”

A common criticism of standardized testing is that—with increasing focus on standardized tests—teachers are forced to solely focus on test-related content, missing out on a lot of the other skills that go beyond the test. Such teaching styles may limit the creativity and excitement of the classroom, and leave students feeling bored or uninspired without some of the “soft skills” normally gained in the classroom.

Standardized Testing Hasn’t Been Proven to Increase Educational Achievement

According to extensive research, increases in educational achievement have not been shown based on a school district’s use of standardized testing. According to a comprehensive examination of education research by the National Research Council, test-based incentives have created small or non-existent improvements to educational achievement. Some standardized testing has, in fact, worsened outcomes—the exams high school students take in order to receive their diploma has increased the high school dropout rate across the country by an average of two percent, the study found.

Find PARCC-Approved Calculators and Other Educational Resources at Schoomart

The debate regarding standardized testing is far from over and has yet to provide many solutions to some of the disadvantages of standardized testing. However, until a new method for testing student achievement is found, standardized testing will remain a major component of every public-educated American student’s school day. At Schoolmart, we provide PARCC-approved calculators and other educational tools to help students succeed on standardized tests. To learn more about our products, visit our website today!