Standardized Testing and its Effect on Education

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Standardized tests are seen in many schools across america, and are given to students multiple times each year. In fact, The average number of standardized tests administered per school system per year is five (Sproull, Zubrow 628). All of these tests are used as a way for schools to evaluate students learning and comprehension abilities throughout each year.

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Standardized tests can also play into the decision of whether or not a student is set to move up to the next grade level. These tests are a good way to measure a student at certain points throughout each year, however, they may not be the best way to evaluate a student overall. While many schools put standardized tests into practice, they are not an accurate way to measure a student’s overall knowledge because they are unfair and harmful to students as well as teachers.

Standardized testing was first seen around the time of World War I. These tests were so successful in classifying and assigning military personnel that during the 1920’s they were introduced into our school systems (Daniels 12). Many years later, in 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was introduced as a way to ensure that no child was left behind in education. This act played a pretty substantial role in standardized testing. NCLB required both annual student testing and school-level reporting that indicated whether schools were succeeding or failing to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward proficiency goals ( Dee 253). With this act still in place today, the testing it requires has not only made huge impacts on schools, but on students and teachers as well.

Standardized Testing, being that it is so widespread, affects students across the United States in so many different ways. There has been a lot of arguments over the years about whether or not standardized testing is effective in schools. Many supporters of standardized testing argue that the tests are good for students and and have positive effects on them, but some would argue otherwise. Supporters of standardized testing may argue that the tests provide important information for the students. For example, if a student does bad on a section in the test, they know to study more for that specific topic. Another argument that supporters might make is that the tests help to push students to try harder and pay more attention in their classrooms. Although these tests may seem to be a good thing for students, research seems to show otherwise.

Standardized tests are surprisingly harmful and even unfair to students in schools today. Research has shown that Students of color, students with disabilities, English-language learners, and low-income students are failing state graduation tests at rates as high as 60% to 90%, leaving them to face bleak futures (Sadker, Zittleman 742-743). This data makes it evident that certain students are at a disadvantage. By measuring all students against the same yardsticks of literacy and numeracy, individual creativity and differences are lost or denigrated (Sadker, Zittleman 744). All students are being given the same expectations on tests and it is clearly unfair to do so in certain cases, such as if a student has a learning disability and has trouble comprehending questions on tests. These situations have many negative effects on students. Frustration , discouragement from trying, increased competition, and a general devaluation of grades and school assessments are the primary negative student effects (Mertler 5). All of these effects can make huge impacts on a students education and possibly even their future.

Many schools see importance in the motivation of students to do well on assessments by offering rewards or praise to the those who do well. Although rewarding students might seem like an easy fix to help motivate kids, it was stated by George Madaus and Clarke Marguerite that In practice, however, some students immediately dismiss the examination because they perceive the award to be unobtainable (Madaus, Clark 11). One of the reasons that this happens is because Young children adopt an optimistic view of their own abilities and count their own efforts, teacher praise, and tangible rewards as evidence of their learning and progress ( Paris 14). Therefore, if students aren’t getting praised or rewards from teachers, they might take that as not being smart or making progress. Once a student gets into that mindset, they aren’t going to try as hard next time because they feel like they aren’t smart enough to reach the reward. With this in mind, it seems that the rewards or praise given to students with higher scores, might have some negative and harmful effects on students who don’t do as well.

Another factor that plays into the harm and unfairness of standardized testing is that many schools scattered throughout the United States are located in regions that don’t have a very high-income rate. This means that the schools may not have adequate money to provide the proper materials for its students which in return can affect their learning and test scores. The journal article Poor Teaching for Poor Kids stated that high stakes testing systems may provide more money to those already successful (for example, in the form of bonuses for good scores) and less to those whose need is greatest (Kohn 253). This being said, because of the lack of money in certain schools, students aren’t doing as well on their testing because they can’t afford the needed books and supplies like some others might. It was not only found that these tests affect regions with a low-income, but that The most conspicuous victims of high-stakes testing are low-income minority children (Kohn 251). Those students who are low-income minority children are the ones being affected the most and it is very unfair. Researchers have identified several characteristics of standardized tests that could negatively bias the scores of minority students and of students from low-income families (Neill, Medina 691). These low-income minority students are being subjected to tests that contain questions that only whites and families with a higher income would be likely to know the answers to. Researchers have also discovered that the elaborated , stylized English commonly used in standardized tests prevents such tests from accurately measuring the achievement, ability, or skills of students who speak nonstandard (e.g., African-American, Hispanic, southern, Appalachian, working-class) dialects (Neill, Medina 692). This research shows that these standardized tests aren’t doing as much good for the students as some may think. They are very clearly unfair to low-income minority students, and in the end they are only causing more harm to those students than good.

Not only does standardized testing impact students, but it also has an impact on the educators in schools. Research has found that there are both positive and negative impacts on those educators. In an article written by Craig Mertler, it was stated that Positive effects on teachers include improvements in the diagnosis of individual student needs and the identification of strengths and weaknesses in the curriculum, as well as increased motivation to work harder and smarter, to align instruction with standards, and to identify content not mastered by students, thus allowing for redirected instruction ( Mertler 5-6). With this being said, standardized testing can have positive impacts on teachers, however there are many negatives that come along with it as well.

Standardized testing impacts teachers in a more negative way than most might think. On the whole we know that high-stakes testing is controlling both what and how subjects are taught (Au, Gourd 17). Testing in schools seem to be making matters worse for teachers and students throughout the country. According to Wayne Au and Karen Gourd, writers from The English Journal, They are rooted in racism and classism, and as a 2011 National Research Council report tells us, a focus on high-stakes testing for nearly a decade has not closed achievement gaps, and in cases like the use of high school exit exams required for graduation, they have made it worse (Au, Gourd 18). Therefore, having classrooms focus on testing isn’t benefiting us as much as we may have thought.

Although Supporters of standardized testing believe if teachers cover just the subject matter required by the standards and teach it well, their students will master the material on which they will be tested- no special test preparation will be needed (Asaff 158), many teachers have found that teaching based off of the subjects on the test isn’t the most effective thing for themselves or their students. Not surprisingly, in a national study, nearly seven out of ten teachers reported feeling test stress, and two out of three believed that preparing for the test takes time from teaching important, non-tested, topics ( Sadker, Zittleman 743). This data shows that teachers are feeling stressed because of pressure to have their students excel on tests. In return, students are only being taught based on test subjects and are missing out on other information that might be of importance to them later in life. While some teaching in schools should prepare students for testing, there needs to be more time set aside for teachers to teach on topics that might not be based off of the tests.

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