Cons of Standardized Testing
The distribution of standardized tests within American classrooms has been implicated since the late 1800s. A standardized test is “any form of test that requires all test takers to answer the same questions, or a selection of questions from a common bank of questions, in the same way, and that is scored in a “standard” or consistent manner, which makes it possible to compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students”(Standardized Test). Scores of the standardized tests are used to then determine the academic achievement of students and also the teachers’ ability to teach them. However, there is a large margin of error that accompanies the mass testing of pupils. Standardized testing removes creativity within the classroom, puts extreme amounts of stress on both students and teachers, and costs tremendous amounts of money with little return.
“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’” (Standardized). All of these aspects are crucial in the development of students, both in the classroom and in life, and are heavily overlooked when educators begin teaching students how to be test takers rather than independent thinkers. Today, there is little time inside core classrooms for creative thinking due to the intense focus placed on analyzing and interpreting informational texts and technical writing. Stressing these teaching practices is founded on the idea that children most need to be exposed to real world reading and workplace writing (Payne). The thought is that when students enter the work field, reading Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet will not benefit them in the competition for jobs. Langston Hughes’s poems will not help a young adult read and create important reports. However, students who thrive on poetry, dramas, classical literature, and fictional pieces are starved while being taught to analyze test questions. Kyung-Hee Kim of William & Mary recently did a study titled “Creativity Crisis in America” (Zagursky). “While many schools focus on standardization and testing, students who don’t get the best grades may still be extremely creative. If we neglect creative students in school because of the structure and the testing movement—creative students cannot breathe, they are suffocated in school—then they become underachievers,’ said Kim. Kim, who also studies school drop-outs, added that she has found that creative people can be either overachievers—if their needs are met in the classroom and at home—or underachievers. Kim said that for creative students, the odds of dropping out increases by 52 percent if they are in the wrong school environment” (Zagursky).
Immense stress is placed on students to perform to the best of their abilities on standardized tests. Because teachers’ effectiveness is largely based on their students scores, educators frequently begin in September reminding their boys and girls of the importance of doing well during testing. While in training for standardized testing, teachers regularly meet and pour over practice test data looking for evidence of standards in which students appear to be weak. They then reteach those standards, put the same missed questions back in front of the class, and go over these questions with a fine toothed comb unveiling misconceptions for highly missed questions. Teachers hold faculty meetings looking for successful tricks to teach students how to increase their chances of correctly answering questions. Teachers lose sleep, waking after dreaming of students not showing up for testing or falling asleep amidst their testing blocks. Parents are encouraged during testing to make sure their children get plenty of sleep and eat well balanced breakfasts to boost scores. Test packets and drills are sent home for families to use for review (Payne). When children are asked about their least favorite part of school, the answer is often test prep and testing in general. The stress placed on all stakeholders for standardized testing is enormous, not to mention, very expensive.
“In a recent report released Nov. 29 by the Washington-based Brown Center on Education Policy, at the Brookings Institution…Standardized-testing regimens cost states some $1.7 billion a year overall” (Ujifusa). In 2011, Texas taxpayers paid out approximately 93 million dollars for students to be tested (Martinez). One would think that this pricey education expense would be run smoothly and efficiently to maximize effectiveness in the classroom, thus having a small margin of error. However, it is quite the latter. Standardized testing companies are “notorious for making costly and time-consuming scoring errors” (Standardized). “In January, New York City officials spotted a problem with the English exams administered 65,000 grade seven students. On five questions, letters labeling answers in the test booklet did not correspond to those on the answer sheet. For example, the test booklets listed F, G, H or J as possible responses, while the answer sheets gave A, B, C and D as the options” (Errors). Another instance occurred in Connecticut “reported that its contractor, Harcourt, fouled up the scanning of students answers. The problem, said Harcourt, would delay score reporting by two to four weeks. This could cause Connecticut to miss the NCLB deadline for reporting scores by September 1. State Education Secretary Betty Sternberg said this could result in the state losing up to $1million in federal funds. It would, she said, constitute a breach of contract. In February, Harcourt mis-reported scores for some 350 students, leading to an $80,000 fine by the state” (Errors). This money that is being lost due to the blunders of the testing companies could be applied in so many other helpful ways. “So many students are being deprived of learning materials in the classroom because schools simply do not have the funds to support them. Just like technology. The technology in our society is growing at exponential rates and teachers should be able to incorporate some of it in our classrooms. However, there are thousands of classrooms in America that are still using the same chalk board and overhead projector that was used when I was in elementary school! Yet, the schools somehow have enough money in their budget to afford to distribute tests that cost around 65 dollars a student. There is no telling what students could achieve if we (educators) provided them with materials to further their learning, with our already limited funds, rather than to drill test taking strategies into their brains” (Payne).
Standardized tests are an outdated, unfair method of judging both teachers and students. Creative thinking within the classroom has been replaced with “drill ‘n kill” test taking strategies to ensure students are able to attain the highest score when asked to pick one of four answer options. Students and teachers are told by education officials that their future as successful students and employed educators is riding on the scores that are brought back from the tests. This creates unfathomable amounts of stress on both parties. Lastly, the monetary price of standardized tests are only growing as the testing companies continue to make mistakes that cost large sums of taxpayers’ money, and educators time. These tests are offering little to no reward to the students that take them, or the teachers being forced to teach to these tests. The time, money, and stress partnered with these tests can be replaced with creativity and independent thinking skills by eliminating the tests as a whole.