Rarely do discussions about the use of student test results to evaluate the quality of state education systems, districts, schools, and sometimes even teachers get parents, teachers, and school leaders riled up like discussions about using student test results to evaluate the quality of state education systems, districts, schools, and sometimes even teachers.
But what are standardized tests, and why do we need them even after getting so many recent backlashes!
What Is Standardized Tests?
Let us see the definition standardized tests before moving on to their pros and cons. A standardised test is a test that is given to students in a very consistent manner; that is, the questions on the test are all the same, the time allotted to each student is the same, and the method by which the test is scored is the same for all students.
A standardised test is a test that is given to students in a very consistent manner. American kids begin taking standardised examinations in elementary school, also known as a primary school when they are in the first grade.
When students reach the end of high school and are considering attending college or university, they must decide whether or not they will be required to take the SAT or ACT, which are standardised tests that are used to determine whether or not students are academically prepared for postsecondary study.
Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree and are contemplating pursuing a graduate degree will almost certainly be required to take additional standardised examinations to be admitted to graduate school. The GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT are the most often used standardised examinations for graduate school admissions.
When researching which examinations may be necessary for admission, keep in mind that each institution has its unique set of prerequisites. Also, be sure to study for the exam months in advance so that you are well prepared.
Why Standardized Testing Is Important?
These are the reasons why standardized testing is important:
1. Provides Objectivity
Standardized testing is, at its core, intended to be objective indicators of performance. They evaluate pupils using a comparable set of questions, which are administered under roughly equal testing settings, and which are scored by a computer or a blind reviewer, among other criteria.
They are meant to offer an accurate and unfiltered assessment of a student’s knowledge and abilities. Some people now believe that the grades given by instructors are adequate. Teacher grading systems, however, may be radically inconsistent among schools—and even within them—as the truth demonstrates.
For example, one math instructor may be exceedingly generous in his or her grading, while another may be ruthlessly strict: earning an A in one subject may signify something quite different in another. The subjective nature of teacher grading may manifest itself in various ways, such as showing preference towards specific students, and it can be based on non-achievement characteristics such as classroom conduct, participation, and attendance.
Standardised testing, on the other hand, provides a very clear picture of a student’s level of academic achievement. Standardized examinations are not designed to (and should not be used to) replace the teacher’s grade book; nonetheless, they do give an objective, “summative” evaluation of students’ abilities and progress.
Standardized testing of accomplishment may be used for a variety of objectives, including comparison and accountability, which will be described in more detail below.
The sheer objectivity of standardised tests results in the comparability of student accomplishment, which is a desirable characteristic for both parents and practitioners. Generally speaking, most parents, for example, would want to know whether or not their kid is fulfilling state criteria or how she compares to her classmates around the state.
This critical information is provided to parents via statewide standardised assessments. Meanwhile, parents who are shopping for a school for their kid have every right to check and compare the standardised test results from a variety of schools, including charters, district schools, and STEM schools, before making a final decision on which school to send their child.
The results of statewide tests are frequently used by school administrators to compare their pupils’ success across school and district boundaries. If the principal of East Elementary wants to compare the accomplishment of her students to that of kids at West Elementary, the principal of West Elementary may compare the achievement of her students to the achievement of students in the district, the county, and the state.
How do her pupils do in comparison? Only a statewide standardised exam would be able to determine the difference. A pick-your-own-assessment policy, for example, has been proposed, which would enable schools to choose whatever assessments they would want to use. This is a faulty concept that should be rejected outright.
It would violate the concept of comparability in statewide testing. First and foremost, it should be stated that all standardised examinations are not created equal. Consider the following simple illustration: Although both Ohio’s previous state tests and the PARCC examinations are standardized testing, they are as unlike as night and day.
Meanwhile, a strategy that allows students to choose their assessments would produce Pandora’s box of uncertainty about how to interpret the findings. If Columbus City Schools chooses NWEA as its testing provider and achieves an 80 per cent performance rate, the district would be considered successful. Consider the following scenario: Worthington City Schools (a suburb of Columbus) chooses PARCC and reports a 50 per cent competence rate.
Should we conclude that Columbus pupils are truly succeeding at greater levels than their counterparts in Worthington, Ohio? Is the exam just different this time? Without these test results, we would have no idea what was going on. Districts and schools should not be forced to play a game of “Choose Your Own Adventure” when it comes to state evaluation policy.
Whether you agree with them or not, standardised test statistics continue to be the most effective method of holding schools responsible for their academic achievement. Ohio is doing a fantastic job of developing a cutting-edge school accountability system, which is to be applauded.
The accountability metrics include strong measurements such as “student progress” or “value-added” measures, as well as traditional proficiency scores and college-admissions outcomes, among other things. All of these outcome metrics are derived from the results of standardised tests.
Policymakers may identify schools that need assistance, up to and including closure, based on the information gathered via these accountability methods. For example, the state test results from charter schools (both school-level value-added and proficiency) are used to decide which schools must shut under the charter school automatic closure statute.
Additionally, if a district’s performance on test-based outcomes is poor, the Academic Distress Commission may place the district under state supervision. Another area in which standardised testing data will be used is in the field of regulatory deregulation. One priority measure now being examined in the Senate (SB 3) would provide “high-performing” districts significant flexibility and exemption from state restrictions in exchange for their efforts to improve performance.
What criteria are used to identify these top achievers? Answer: Using state accountability metrics that are based on standardised test results, to be specific. Aside from standardised test scores, there are no objective means for policymakers to identify either low-performing schools in need of help or high-performing schools worthy of recognition.
Examine the alternative: Who would want politicians to interfere or reward schools based on anecdotes or their “gut sense” about a school? It is crucial for the maintenance of a fair and objective accountability system that standardised tests be administered across the state.
In an ideal world, it would be possible to will away standardised testing. All schools would be excellent, and every kid would be achieving his or her full academic potential. We, on the other hand, live in the actual world. The educational system is divided into two categories: excellent schools and bad schools; high-flying students and kids who struggle tremendously.
To improve school and student performance, we need hard, objective data, and the best available evidence comes in the form of standardised examinations. Policymakers must exercise caution so as not to jeopardise the credibility of the state’s standardised testing programmes.
Now we will see standardized testing pros and cons!
Pros And Cons Of Standardized Testing
These are the standardized testing pros and cons:
Pro#1: Serves As A Measure Of Progress In Learning
Using standardised testing to examine the performance of Whitby students, we can acquire a useful statistic that we may utilise to evaluate the overall quality of our programme. Standardized testing scores, which are generated and administered by an independent organisation, are useful because they come from a neutral source and provide information that can be compared to that of other independent schools across the United States and with that of other international schools across the world, as well as with other independent schools in other countries.
Pro#2: Aids In Identification Of Areas For Improvement
The information we collect on the quality of our education programme is used to assess the effectiveness of our standardised test results at Whitby. We consider standardised testing data to be not simply another set of data points to use in evaluating student achievement, but also as a tool to help us reflect on our curriculum and make improvements.
When we examine Whitby’s assessment results, we can compare our children to their classmates at other schools to understand what we are doing well within our educational continuum and where we need to devote more time and resources to improving our performance.
Pros#3: Assist Schools In Evaluation
Assessment data may also be used to make internal comparisons from one year to the next. The data are compared across several years to identify patterns, and any changes are traced back to their source. If the arithmetic scores of our fourth-grade children suddenly improve, we want to figure out what changed to cause the improvement and how we might incorporate that adjustment into our curriculum going forward.
A student’s previous evaluation data may also be used to track their development and identify any difficulties they may be facing (as well as identifying places where they have already improved and excelled.)
These were the pros of standardized testing. Now we will head towards standardized testing cons!
Con#1: Test Results Might Influence On Confidence
When students take standardised tests, it is easy to perceive their results as the only measure of their aptitude. This is a significant drawback of standardised testing. When it comes to learning development, we at Whitby are continuously stressing that the number is merely one piece of information among many other internal evaluations across several subject areas that give us information on a student’s learning progress.
Students who have shown a good grasp of a topic or idea via a variety of exams, but who are not as proficient at completing multiple-choice tests, are not uncommon in educational settings. If a student believes that they did not do as well as they would have liked, it might be difficult for them to cope.
Alternatively, rather than assessing the overall picture of learning via a review of all assessment data with their instructors, a student may judge their success based on the results of one annual, nationally normed exam.
Con#2: Lot Of Pressure
When standardised examinations become the most important thing in a school or district, it has a significant influence on the way students and teachers interact. When educators believe that their ratings (and careers) are exclusively dependent on how well children score on tests, they commonly begin “teaching to the test.”
It is also possible that educators may refrain from experimenting with new tactics and teaching methods in the classroom. Teachers will be concerned that an unproven strategy would backfire and cause their pupils to do worse than they did before, as each minute counts down to the next exam for which they will be responsible.
This occurs at the expense of student learning that is characterised by inquiry, involvement, innovation, and risk-taking.
Con#3: Fail To Provide True Picture Of Student’s Ability
There are far too many individuals who are mistaken in their belief that data from standardised testing gives an unbiased and authoritative judgement of a child’s intellectual competence. Cultural influences, unfamiliarity with testing procedures, test anxiety, and sickness may all harm a student’s ability to do well on tests.
Therefore, while looking at exam results for students, it is critical to delve beyond the surface level information. If you get a poor score, does this reflect a lack of understanding about the subject matter or an issue with the standardised exam itself? In a multiple-choice grammar and punctuation test, for example, a brilliant writer may find it difficult to choose the correct answer from among the many choices.
However, that same kid may excel at writing well-thought-out, logical essays on the literature they studied and appreciated in class if they applied themselves. Another common misconception is that kids who do well in mathematics are also adept in abstract reasoning and information processing. However, this is not necessarily the case.
As it turns out, studies have shown that high standardised test scores have nothing to do with recall, attention, or processing speed. Exceptional test results might simply indicate that a kid excels at rote memorization and multiple-choice examinations.
These were the reasons why standardized testing is bad!