Debating Standardized Tests

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Some people like them, some people despise them, but ultimately everyone has to take them. These are what schools like to call standardized exams. These end of the year, state-administered exams have been debated since their beginning, and there is good reason for that.

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Although supporters of standardized tests believe they are an objective measure of student achievement, opponents admit to the overwhelming cons that include educators teaching to the test, the neglection of external factors, and the terrible stress induced from these exams. While proponents of standardized testing make some valid points, the pros do not outweigh the overflowing cons, which is why standardized testing should be eradicated.

One of the biggest problems with standardized testing is an issue called teaching to the test. Because teachers are so pressured to have their students earn high marks on these standardized exams, this is leading to declines in teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments, and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum (Procon 4). To counter this, proponents of standardized exams defend teaching to the test by deeming it an effective method, as it focuses on essential content and skills and at the same time eliminates time-wasting activities that don’t produce learning gains. However, to say that standardized tests eliminate time-wasting activities is simply not valid. Are creative assignments and projects considered time-wasting activities? How about higher-order thinking and high-cognitive content? (Redel 2). Even if teachers were to cover the subject matter perfectly as required by the standards, something has to lose out. Sure, the students might master the material on which they are to be tested, but if that means forfeiting more time spent on encouraging creativity and deeper analysis, are these exams worth it?

Another problem with standardized testing is that these so called accurate evaluation tests do not consider external factors which could affect a student’s performance. On the other hand, groups supporting standardized testing feel that these exams are an efficient and accurate way of assessing a student’s work. But what if a student is undergoing a lot of stress or is having family issues? Students can quickly and easily become overwhelmed with anxiety a bad test score may mean missing out on admission to the college of their choice or even being held back (Meador 1). Supporters of standardardized testing seem to conveniently overlook that cultural factors, unfamiliarity with testing methods, test anxiety, and illness can wreak havoc with how well a student performs (Nixon 2). Every person’s story is different, and no one can or should assume to know one’s personal situation. There are too many contributing components in students that can cause ineffectual results, deeming standardized testing imperfect to say the least.

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