Standardized Testing: Measurement of Academic Achievement

According to Albert Einstein, Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. This is exactly the case with standardized testing, a method of consistent multiple-choice testing that is the same throughout, including the time allowed to take the test and the questions on the test (Burrows 1).

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The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002 requires all U.S. government-owned schools to administer annual standardized testing to measure the academic progress of all of their students (Chubb 10). The U.S. is the only highly developed nation that requires schools owned federally to complete numerous standardized tests yearly (How Standardized Testing Damages Education 2). The belief of the government, school faculty, and the public is that standardized testing allows a thorough examination of future collegiate success, evaluation of teachers, and assessment of school achievement. But, in fact, standardized testing is negatively impacting the quality of education, is remarkably biased, and is an outrageously ineffective way to appraise student and teacher achievement.

The pressures on schools to perform fittingly on state-mandated tests are being forced to teach to the test through low-quality curriculum and test prep rather than having students think analytically and creatively throughout their primary and secondary education (Chubb 9). For example, students have a pressure placed on them to perform satisfactorily on the SAT to get accepted into their college of choice (Moore et al. 49). This causes many students to spend undue amounts of time preparing for the test through Pre-SATs, test preparatory courses, and study booklets and in turn, drives students away from their regular schoolwork to prepare for these tests (Moore at al. 49). Alexia Garcia, a 2013 graduate of Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon says [Testing] felt really irrelevant and disconnected from what we were doing in class (Rizga 40). Multiple choice tests are efficient for scoring hundreds of tests at one time through robots, which causes most administrators of standardized tests leave open-ended or extended response questions nonexistent which require critical thinking because they require human readers(The Room 241 Team 1). The consistent multiple choice questions on standardized tests cause poor assessment of students’ ability. Additionally, less time is being spent on the sciences, social studies, and the arts to prepare students to take the tests in math, reading and writing (The Room 241 Team 1).

Minorities, English-learners, and low-income students suffer the most from these state-mandated practices, and, consequently, they are all more likely to be denied a diploma, be placed in remedial programs, or be forced to be held back in their grade (How Standardized Testing Damages Education 1). For this reason, standardized testing remains intensely biased towards the English-speaking, white middle class. For one, all students across all ethnic lines score better on the SAT if they have taken advanced-level courses [and] minorities and students from low-income schools seldom have access to such courses because these courses are often expensive (Moore et al. 49) If the students that have experienced preparatory programs and score well, it is not a reflection of their intelligence and ability to learn, but rather their ability to afford such resources. Maria Blanco with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund states the SAT has turned into a barrier to students of color [because] it keeps out very qualified kids who have overcome obstacles but don’t test very well (Moore et al. 50). Also, those, usually minorities and low-class adolescents, that have poor access to schooling and an educational system are less likely to score well on the standardized tests every year and put them at risk for being deemed unworthy or impaired (Rizga 41).

Kristina Rizga presents an analogy for the opportunities for each class of student on such tests. She states that high-class students ride through the education system on an elevator supported by high-quality teachers, curriculum, and tutors. Middle-class students ride on an escalator of which their parents might struggle to support but will work to access the necessary resources for their child. Low-class students take the poorly-kept staircases with cracks, missing steps, and no handrails (41). This becomes evident in their standardized test scores because high-class students score head and shoulders above on the exams due to the fact they can afford high-quality schooling. Ethnic minorities, non-traditional students, and women are also at disadvantages because of the high probability they will fall into the low-class group (Moore et al. 49). Because of this, in 2001, males outscored females by 42 points despite the fact that females outperform males in actual high school classes (Moore et al. 49). Also, African Americans scored an average of 859 on the SAT while White students averaged 1060 (Moore et al. 49).

The ability for students to perform well on a one-time test that will determine their intelligence, ability to learn in college, or their future academic strides is unfathomable. Research shows that many students have the capability to do well in college but they don’t have requisite resources to be able to score high on exams such as the SAT or ACT, producing false negatives (Moore et al. 53). False negatives are adolescents that take the standardized tests and score poorly but, in all reality, they have the same intelligence as someone who scored exponentially higher than they did (Moore et al. 48). These students are rerouted to community colleges or technical schools where the chance of success in their field is very low (Moore et al. 52). Standardized testing also puts unnecessary strain on teachers. Test scores are used to determine the amount of funding a school will garner based on student accomplishment, and this causes teachers to reach to repetitive teaching and tests in the classroom instead of improving their teaching ability, which requires time and diligent interaction with students (Rizga 43). Moreover, school administrators have been drawn to suspending the low performing students, mostly African Americans and Latinos, as a way to boost their overall test score average (Rigza 41).

The Government Accountability Office reported 33 states had an instance where school staff was plainly cheating on the 2011-2012 school year tests (Rigza 41). Additionally, standardized testing can be used for the evaluation of teachers in the school, showing data and proof for schools to fire old teachers and hire new teachers (How Standardized Testing Damages Education 2). It is said that teacher’s performance shouldn’t be evaluated with a one-time test, but rather classroom observation of student work and behavior because some students succeed in school, yet do not perform well on tests. This could deter striving educators away from schools in fear their teaching ability isn’t up to par with the standards set in place, which could cause increased demand for teachers and educators (How Standardized Testing Damages Education 2). Other countries, including those that are as advanced or less advanced than the United States, have used testing strategies including essay writing testing analytical and critical thinking that clearly promote higher-order thinking and problem solving and push schools to expose students to rich and diverse content (Chubb 9).

Since other nations don’t focus so much on multiple choice testing methods, they score excessively higher on international school ranking tests, putting themselves over one of the most highly developed nations in the world (How Standardized Testing Damages Education 1). Standardized testing is unfair considering its intense bias against women, minorities, and low-class individuals. It is unsustainable due to the fact it puts unnecessary pressures on teachers and faculty to be genuinely confident in their students’ ability to obtain high test scores. It is flat out unneeded as college admissions officers could not care less how students perform on current state tests (Chubb 11) and that the SAT is a good measure of a student’s ability to take the SAT (Moore et al. 49), not their predicted success in the college world.

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