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. 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.

Just as everyone's life story is unique, so too is everyone's way of thinking. For this reason, standardized testing is inadequate as an educational evaluation and assessment tool. Rather, it encourages a simplistic way of thinking, where there are only correct and wrong answers (Tabner 1). For example, what if the test only consists of multiple choice, but the student excels far greater at short answer questions? What if the test contains only true and false type questions, but the student does not perceive the world as simply black and white (Nixon 2). The reality is that high test scores could simply mean a student excels at memorization and multiple choice test taking. While it is easy to assume that students who score high in any particular subject are thereby good at processing information and reasoning abstractly, that is not always the case.

Another problem with standardized tests is that they prevent students to prepare for a rewarding adult life. While it is true that with these tests, students can get better at taking tests and developing certain skills, what about real life skills such as understanding the economy and being able to make daily decisions? Instead, students learn to decide which bubble to fill. Real life questions do not have merely four cut and dry multiple choice options from which to choose. Life is about making critical decisions, learning about the path you wish to take to find the correct answer, and traveling down that path (Meador 2). For instance, a hospital administrator is not going to ask a surgeon how to do an operation because the hospital administrator is going to expect him or her to actually do it (Erdberg 2). Furthermore, when someone crams the night before an exam trying to remember information like dates or vocabulary terms just to get an A on a test, the information will most likely end up being forgotten the following day. Conversely, when students actually learn how to take the knowledge they have learned and apply it to real world situations, they are much more likely to remember it. (Redel 1). Standardized exams may successfully test a student's knowledge in the moment for purely regurgitated facts, but if these tests do not prepare a student for life after they walk out of those school doors, it begs the question if there is ultimately a practical purpose.

This is a topic that relates to me personally in a multitude of ways. These standardized tests give me tremendous stress and anxiety, causing me to do worse on the test. I am smarter than my score leads the outside world to perceive, but standardized exams do not accurately project my learning capabilities. This could cause me to be put into classes that are below my intelligence level, which can be viewed as subpar to my parents, colleges, and, most importantly, be the wrong class for myself. Instead, I feel that there should be more than one test to determine a student's intelligence. Alternatively, I suggest that schools give multiple tests on fewer subjects at a time throughout the year, which can help reduce stress and more accurately represent a student's capabilities. Having multiple tests throughout the year to demonstrate one's strength instead of having to cram all the information learned the whole year onto one test can more wholesomely portray a student's proficiency with each subject.

A major issue with standardized tests is that they fail to reveal other amazing talents that I have. Students: Do these test results contain factors such as your funny personality or your abilities to work with others? Admission Officers: Would you rather have someone who is a perfect test-taker, but is not good at working together with others on a big project? Well, if you ask me, I would rather a person with a goal-oriented and determined personality who works well with peers. That is who I am and would hope others would value me for.

These tests are like one piece of a puzzle. It shows only one tiny corner of the image, but focuses entirely on what I dare to say are the wrong pieces. While the puzzle, admittedly, could not be complete without these pieces, the problem is that these pieces are linked by issues such as teaching to the test, declines in creativity, inclines in stress, and a narrow perception of what a student truly stands for. All the other pieces are equally important and we cannot forget that without them, we can never see the whole picture. Standardized tests only show one piece of me, but I am more than just a letter grade or number on one test.

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Debating Standardized Tests. (2019, Jun 24). Retrieved July 12, 2024 , from

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