Standardized testing provides misleading examples of how students are performing. The tests aren’t at all objective, as we’ve been led to believe. Schools that “teach to the test” get better average test results, at the price of the students’ education. Educators who focus on these scores are incompetent, preferring memorized facts over actual skill-building, but it likely isn’t their fault. While other countries take more time to measure what’s reliable, the US is preoccupied with inexpensive ways of easily measuring education.
Standardized tests also have problems when it comes to a student’s socioeconomic status. Students that come from wealthier families generally do better on standardized tests than those from impoverished families. While our education system itself functions well, we do a poor job compensating for economic differences, which leads to the various problems that most students face on a regular basis.
Standardized testing also is unfair, discriminating against non-English speakers and students who have special needs. No Child Left Behind tests are drastically narrowing our curriculum, and, ironically, leave far too many children behind. Test-prep eats away at actual instruction time.
One might then ask: “Why bother with it?” The answer is that the test scores do matter. Not for the students, but for the school. If the scores drop too low, the typical course of action is to dissolve the school, and then make a new one. This solves nothing and is just a waste of money.
State-mandated tests don’t take advantage of everything that the teachers know about their students. Cumulative validity is a better measure of how students are progressing. But this method is hard and takes more time than standardized testing. It requires more trust as well. But standardized testing, along with our poor methods of dealing with it, is crippling our education system.
By Elliott Weix