Every year, mandated annual exams are administered to students, of all ages, across all 50 states. School districts, school boards and teachers use these scores evaluate student’s academic progress. Separated by state, there are different versions of standardized exams that students are required to take that cover the same basic math, science, and reading skills. Standardized testing is a symptom a disease that lead to a broken education system that is based off the performances of students on a standardized achievement test.
These tests are heavily influenced by three causative factors that contribute to students’ scores on standardized achievement tests: what’s taught in school, an intellectual disability, and the way students learn. A standardized test is any examination that’s overseen and recorded in a preset, standard manner. There are two major types of standardized exams: aptitude tests and achievement tests. Standardized aptitude tests are a basic prediction of how well a student might perform in a subsequent educational setting such as SAT tests and ACT tests.
The standardized achievement tests are what school board members rely on when they are evaluating and educational schools effectiveness. WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations) and the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) are examples of standardized achievement tests that are used in Wisconsin school districts. These standardized exams used to only be administered to decide where a child or what kind of help they need. Now, standardized exams in the U. S, we are forcing children as young as six years of age to standardized exams (Kohn).
The first negative factor of standardized tests is the information that is being taught in the schools. Teachers are teaching to the test, that is the main argument. Unfortunately, that means teachers are given specific material to administer to their students to help increase scores. Some of the questions that are being asked during the standardized achievement tests measure only how much information each student can retain in the classroom. It watches an individual’s performance on one specific day, not the overall growth during the school year.
Schools require teachers to spend at least a quarter of the year in preparation for these exams, which causes teachers to condense other units and possibly leave out important lessons. During the preparation period, teachers are given specific curriculum to follow by the District School Board. Since a huge part of the school year is taken up by the preparation of these exams, teachers are expected that students are achieving high scores. The success of the school depends on the performance of its students.
This may cause high stress levels for students and teachers and the public school district. [“Recent speculation on the impact of a mandated test on teacher and instruction assumes a pressure-practice relationship to explain teacher testing-related behavior. The pressure on teachers and administrators to improve test performance is theorized to lead to unwanted instructional and curricular narrowing, teacher who focus upon the test content to the exclusion of other relevant instructional outcomes, and teacher engagement in inappropriate test-related activities” (Moore 344-345). Under the pressure, teachers and school board have begun to cut programs like gym and recess. This causes a negative impact on children’s social skills, behavioral skills, and academic performance. Secondly, all children differ from each other, which means the intellectual ability of each student is going effect their performance on these standardized exams. Standardized achievement tests only evaluates a student’s academic ability on one particular day, it doesn’t take into account external factors that may be taking base in a student’s life.
There are two major factors of intellectual abilities, physical (abuse, not understanding the content, physical impairment) and emotional (unstable home, test anxiety, students just many not perform well on any type of exam). Students that qualify under special education are required to take the same standardized test as student in their regular general education classes. These students are given only a select number of accommodation as part of their IEP (Individualized Education Plan).
ESL (English as a Second Language) students are required to partake in English based exams before they have become proficient in the English language. Third example of why standardized tests are unfair because not all children learn the same way. Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic are three different learning styles that best explain the way student’s learn. Visual learners are those who learn by observation and seeing material, auditory learners are those who absorb information best by hearing, and kinesthetic learners learn best by experiencing and participating in physical activities.
According to an article from SAGE journals “The learning-styles view has acquired great influence within the education field, and is frequently encountered at levels ranging from kindergarten to graduate school. There is a thriving industry devoted to publishing learning-styles tests and guidebooks for teachers, and many organizations offer professional development workshops for teachers and educators built around the concept of learning styles” (Pashler. 105-19). Besides teachers, testing ability, and learning styles, there are three major disadvantages of achievement exams: time, the frequency of the exam, and young children.
Normally, standardized exams are timed test, giving students an allowed amount of time for each portion of the exam. This meaning that speed is the key factor to each exam, not understanding the key concept of each question. During every academic school year, students take a standardized exam at the beginning and the end of the year starting in early years. That’s where the frequency of each test come into effect. They measure how much information a student has retained over the course of the year.
Standardized exams are not subjected to grade level so it ensures that if you aren’t retaining higher level education you are bound to fail. Exams are not easy, so subjecting young children to take these exams is impossible for them. Such assessment doesn’t prove and understanding of what a child may know. Kohn states that “what test-makers are measuring for some children is not their cognitive capacities so much as their “ability to sit in the same place for a certain amount of time and expect young children to acquire the same information as older students”.
In a higher education setting, students are required to submit and ACT score or an SAT score. With some particular colleges and universities, there are many students that are rejected based off these standardized scores. These tests are not very effective as predicting a future in academic performance for student entering in college years. According to The Case against Standardized Testing: raising the scores, ruining the schools”, standardized testing is an unnecessary exam that is given to students that is shouldn’t be used to measure who should be accepted into a college or university (Kohn 3).
Each exam, to an extent, covers specific topic in regards to reading, math, and writing. Typically, portions of these exams aim to see how much information each student had memorized a series of procedures, rules, and definitions or dates or specific events in past history. What if students don’t know the answer to a specific question to an exam? What do they do? Kohn, the writer of The case against standardized testing: raising the scores, ruining the schools ran a survey in a public school district defend his argument that student’s just fill in answers and hope for the best.
Majority of students said that all they could can do is recognize one random answer by picking it out of four or five answers provided in a multiple choice section. I conducted an interview of several UWS students, counselors that work with standardized exams, and a high education staff, each response I received was basically the same answer. One basic question was given, what do you think of standardized testing in the educational field? Most of the students believed that achievement tests do not show what students are capable of. A student stated “Standardized exams are good and bad.
Good to the point where they test information that you have been taught in past, but bad in many ways. Every standardized exam I have taken I read just to pass the exam, I don’t learn anything and it doesn’t test my knowledge. It tests my capability to memorize information that is presented to me. ” Counselors that read the results of standardized exams, stated the same thing, pros and cons. A pro was exams make students study and think about each question given while negative is schools are teaching basic subjects anymore, they are teaching to test.
The last interview that was conducted was from a staff member here at UWS that has worked in higher education for many years. He stated “standardized exams show what a student knows but with how society is today, it shouldn’t be used to evaluate for college or a job”. To contradict the negatives of standardized testing, there are many positives. Some have to do with access public records of scores so students are compared across the country and locally, another comparison of scores but between sub-groups, and how teachers are held accountable to teach equired materials.
Standardized tests allow students school district scores to be compared to other school districts across the country. The authors of Assessment in Special education express without standardized exams, parents would not be able to compare their child to students across the country or their school district to other local or national schools. They also can create a comparison between sub-groups, for example students that identify as the same race/ethnicity, children in a specific classroom, higher level education, and special education.
Another positive is that teachers are held to a higher standard with guidance of what information be on the test for the student’s to know. Each teacher in that school district would be teaching the same material meaning that a third grade teacher would be teaching the same information as a fifth grade teacher at a different school within the district. This would make sure that all student’s within that school district the same information.
Assessment is a crucial component to every aspect of any type of education but it doesn’t mean that all standardized exams examine students in the correct way. The more we learn about standardized testing, particularly in its high-stakes incarnation, the more likely we are to be appalled. Exams do not prove what student’s know, its proving memorization skills. Teachers, capability, and the way students learn are only a few examples of why standardized testing are ineffective way of measuring a student’s academic knowledge