Measuring Student Achievement: a Study of Standardized Testing

Students can have a sense of achievement after daunting tasks, such as standardized tests. In order to ensure that all students have the same opportunity to have a sense of achievement the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted in 2002. The No Child Left Behind Act supports the idea, students with disabilities generally have to be included in school accountability measures – meaning they must be tested and schools are judged on those test results (Rhee).

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The No Child Left Behind Act means that all students must be tested in english and math before the students can be sent to the next grade level, therefore all students are given these tests. Afterwards students will either feel accomplished or defeated by the test. However the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy envisioned that standardized testing is geared toward students without learning disabilities, as the students in special education will have increased difficulty completing the test. This would be analogous to needing to pass a test for a specific class, but not being given the resources or opportunity to successfully complete it. Even though this act is set to be for all students many are still excluded. A better overall assessment of the student is GPA over standardized tests.

GPA is more comprehensive of the successes the student had over multiple years rather than just one test date. There is little correlation linked between student success in higher education and how well a student performed on standardized tests which is eminent in a study UC Berkeley conducted. The study looked at all 80,000 students in the California university system, and found that when admission was based on, high school GPA is consistently the strongest predictor of 4-year college outcomes for all academic disciplines, campuses and freshman cohorts in the UC sample (Geiser). This 2007 experiment was looking for the success rate in 4 years of college and compared it to their success in high school. Overall, students that did well on a day to day basis in the classroom had a higher success rate than the ones who only did exceptionally well on standardized tests. Tests are not indicators of one’s ability to use skills that are practiced in the classroom, such as creativity, motivation and self-discipline. When moving into higher education or the workforce there must be a knowledge of more than just academics, but how to operate in society. Skills adapted outside of the classroom are just as important.

Colleges and universities look for students coming into college with more than just academic skill. Being a member of society allows students to be well rounded and gives students an opportunity to work of leadership skills, communication and real world scenarios. A Dean of Admissions for Bates College William Hiss has found: ‘evidence that someone has interests that they have brought to a higher level, from a soccer goalie to a debtor to a servant in a community to a linguist. We need to see evidence that the student can bring something to a high level of skill’ (Sheffer). In order to flourish in higher education or the workforce there must be knowledge and skill in different scenarios than just a school setting. Standardized testing blindly yields students as to whether or not they are college ready, but the scores are not comprehensive enough to capture other successes in high school. Additionally, even though GPA is an important indicator in the college application process another important criteria are experiences and takeaways that can eventually be used in the workplace. A student that lacks common sense and the ability to learn or cooperate does not have the maturity to be sent to college or the workforce, and a test score does not have the ability to represent that either. As for teachers, they take time to study for standardized tests which could be spent on working on other skill sets.

Math and english are incredibly important to be taught in schools because these subject areas are widely used outside of school. However, using time that could be spent on learning science or social studies becomes counterproductive. It is important to show up on exam day prepared, but preparing for standardized testing has the potential to take up class time that should be filled with other studies. In elementary and middle schools, standardized tests can hamper the longevity of the careers of teachers. In New York City, last year, pass rates on the reading exam dropped to 42% from 69% the previous year and to 54% from 82% in math. The city has already decided to close a record 27 schools this year because of poor performance (Kolodner). The drastic drop in student performance can cause students and teachers to feel more pressure to do well, thus taking more time out of class to prepare. Later on, a teacher came out to say that his third grade class had been spending 2.5 hours a day on preparing (Kolodner). Not only are teachers’ jobs on the line if students do not do well, but the students feel responsible. Overall, testing at any age or grade level creates unneeded stress and wasted time. In order to prevent this from happening less emphasis must be put on testing.

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