Causes and Contributing Factors of Standardized Testing

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Standardized test taking has become the norm in the education system. In the 20th century, standardized tests were invented to improve schools, teacher practices, and educational methods. Unfortunately, it has contributed to severe dilemmas in the student’s education process. Standardized testing is a cause of limited student learning, biased teaching, and a contributing cause to the diminishing health of students.

Standardized testing is the cause of limited student learning. The tests given only explore cognitive abilities, neglecting the other qualities that are essential to the student. Research proves that GED recipients score about the same as traditional high school students on the standardized test. While they are alike in that they generally obtain the same score, they also differ. GED recipients often lack basic qualities, such as curiosity and perseverance (How Standardized Tests Shape and Limit Student Learning). English and language arts (ELA) teachers could help students develop these non-cognitive skills that are essential to the learning process if they weren’t mandated to focus so largely on testing drills. Instead, teachers are forced to limit opportunities, eliminating the curiosity developmental aspect. They also have to cut back on large scale projects, which help to develop perseverance (How Standardized Tests Shape and Limit Student Learning). According to a report published in 2013 by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), students can spend over 110 hours per year doing test prep and as many as 50 hours per year taking the test themselves. This means children dedicate roughly 15% of instructional time on preparing for and taking the standardized test (The Case Against Standardized Testing).

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Standardized testing is the cause of biased teaching. Standardized testing has become the single and most important indicator of a school’s performance. Unfortunately, quality in the public school classroom correlates with high test scores and what determines a good teacher is his or her ability to raise the scores of students taking the standardized test. A writer for the New York Times and high school English teacher, Mercedes Schneider, proves this to be true. She admits to being fearful of losing her job as a teacher if she didn’t conform to the guidelines concerning the time being dedicated to standardized testing. At the end of the school year she was evaluated by a school administrator. The evaluation is based on two things: classroom observation and the results of her students testing scores. Although the evaluation is supposed to be equally based on those two aspects, poor student testing performance can and will override a positive administration observation, resulting in the teacher’s termination (Schneider).

Standardized testing is a contributing cause to the diminishing health of students. Researchers discovered that elementary school students experience greater test anxiety on a standardized test in comparison to the regular classroom test. They hypothesized that one of the contributing factors may be the amount of emphasis educators put on the importance of doing well on these tests (Segool et. al). Although low scores come with consequences for the student, the majority of children feel pressured and stressed because they are aware that the score they receive will impact their teachers and administrators. A study of children’sperception of standardized test taking was conducted in 2012. It showed that even students in third grade understand the consequences of receiving a low grade on the standardized test (Dutro and Selland). A survey conducted by the Northwest Evaluation Association in 2014 reported that 55% of students believed that the purpose of standardized tests was to evaluate their schools (10). Elementary school students in El Paso, Texas were asked what, and if any, fears they had surrounding the standardized test. One student stated, Your teacher will feel bad because you didn’t try. She gets paid for teaching you. She wants her boss to see what a good teacher she is but if you don’t try, her boss won’t know what a good teacher she is, (Strauss). The answer given by that student also shows that the consequences faced by educators and administration members directly and negatively affect the student.

Prior to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, a plethora of professionals that directly deal with children on a regular basis (child psychiatrists, teachers, and pediatricians), signed a statement that advised against additional standardized testing that NCLB would require (Rethink High-Stakes Testing). The statement claimed that requiring more testing would negatively impact students health. A school nurse and former board member of the National Association of School Nurses, took notice to this immediately. After NCLB was implemented and the additional testing began, she witnessed an unusual increase of students who came to her with symptoms that align with anxiety. The symptoms cited included headaches, insomnia, depression, vomiting, and poor attendance (Rethink High-Stakes Testing). There is evidence to prove that stress-related issues experienced by students are not getting better but unfortunately worsening. The New York State School Board Association reported that 61% of responding school psychologists in New York claim that since Common Core standards wereintegrated, the levels of test anxiety has risen drastically (Heiser et. al). A pediatrician in Florida stated that she experienced an increase of patients with stress-related issues around the time of testing. She believes the impact of standardized testing has worsened within the past 20 years specifically, in the past five to eight years (Thompson) which suggests that additional testing was the cause of this. A director of testing and accountability in North Carolina reported to the American School Board Journal that, administrators discard as many as 20 exam books a day because children vomit on them, (Toppo). In fact, vomiting during testing is so common that teachers and administrators are given guidelines on what to do in the event a student vomits on their test and/or answer sheet. The test coordinator provided by the Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College Careers (PARCC) proves this. The teachers are instructed to, put the soiled test into a resealable, plastic bag and if possible, transcribe the responses into a replacement document, (Archived Testing Manuals).

Although standardized testing is beneficial for gathering information to better assess schools in America, the students are suffering for it. Research proves and will continue to prove that standardized testing is a cause of limited student learning, biased teaching, and a contributing cause to the diminishing health of students.

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