POLL: “Is the Use of Standardized Tests Improving Education in America?”

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Below are the historical PROS and CONS. What is your opinion?

PRO Standardized Tests

93% of studies on student testing, including the use of large-scale and high-stakes standardized tests, found a “positive effect” on student achievement, according to a peer-reviewed, 100-year analysis of testing research completed in 2011 by testing scholar Richard P. Phelps.

Standardized tests are reliable and objective measures of student achievement. Without them, policy makers would have to rely on tests scored by individual schools and teachers who have a vested interest in producing favorable results. Multiple-choice tests, in particular, are graded by machine and therefore are not subject to human subjectivity or bias.

20 countries studied “have achieved significant, sustained, and widespread gains” on national and international assessments had used “proficiency targets for each school” and “frequent, standardized testing to monitor system progress,” according to a Nov. 2010 report by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.

Standardized tests are inclusive and non-discriminatory because they ensure content is equivalent for all students. Former Washington, DC, schools chancellor Michelle Rhee argues that using alternate tests for minorities or exempting children with disabilities would be unfair to those students: “You can’t separate them, and to try to do so creates two, unequal systems, one with accountability and one without it. This is a civil rights issue.”

China has along tradition of standardized testing and leads the world in educational achievement. China displaced Finland as number one in reading, math, and science when Shanghai debuted on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings in 2009.  Despite calls for a reduction in standardized testing, China’s testing regimen remains firmly in place. [139] Chester E. Finn, Jr., Chairman of the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K–12 Education, predicts that Chinese cities will top the PISA charts for the next several decades.

 

CON Standardized Tests

Standardized testing has not improved student achievement. After No Child Left Behind (NCLB) passed in 2002, the US slipped from 18th in the world in math on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to 31st place in 2009, with a similar drop in science and no change in reading.  A May 26, 2011, National Research Council report found no evidence test-based incentive programs are working: “Despite using them for several decades, policymakers and educators do not yet know how to use test-based incentives to consistently generate positive effects on achievement and to improve education.”

Standardized tests are an unreliable measure of student performance. A 2001 study published by the Brookings Institution found that 50-80% of year-over-year test score improvements were temporary and “caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning…”

Standardized tests are unfair and discriminatory against non English speakers and students with special needs.  English language learners take tests in English before they have mastered the language.  Special education students take the same tests as other children, receiving few of the accommodations usually provided to them as part of their Individualized Education Plans (IEP).

Standardized tests measure only a small portion of what makes education meaningful. According to late education researcher Gerald W. Bracey, PhD, qualities that standardized tests cannot measure include “creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity.”

“Teaching to the test” is replacing good teaching practices with “drill n’ kill” rote learning. A five-year University of Maryland study completed in 2007 found “the pressure teachers were feeling to ‘teach to the test'” since NCLB was 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.”

 

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