Let’s look at some of the so-called claims about standardized testing:
- Standardized testing raises the bar for students and staff. It sounds good but if you look at the implications of that statement you see that is based on the premise that students and staff could do better if only the right reward/sanction program was in place. It also assumes that it is the test that motivates both staff and student to perform well.
- Standardized tests level the playing field for all students. This one is false right on the surface. As long as test prep is being offered for money, poor students will always be at a disadvantage. Schools or parents with more money will invest more in test preparation. Instead of closing the achievement gap, standardized testing is widening it.
- Standardized tests will help ensure that students have the required knowledge at graduation. There is some truth to this, but not the way the test makers would have you believe. With more and more schools tying graduation to test results, more students are retained; more just drop out. The ones who are retained or drop out do not graduate so the statistics are true but do not take all potential graduates into account. The other premise behind this claim is that everything you need to know to be successful is on a standardized test.
- Standardized testing will identify the bad teachers. As discussed earlier, there are many reasons why a student can have a bad performance on a standardized exam. The premise behind this is that the “good teachers” are already teaching students at a proficient level and that only the “bad” teachers will have students who fall below proficiency.
- Standardized tests make for teacher accountability. This is a misnomer. If a teacher chooses to he or she could teach to the standardized test the way that they teach a multiple choice test. If a teacher only teaches the test they are performing well, but are they really educating? Also, if a teacher is attempting to teach the test, does that not compromise the validity of the test in the first place?
- Standardized testing will show us which students have not mastered enough skills to be promoted. Many schools now base retention around test scores, and, as stated earlier, this may be in contrast with the student’s actual classroom performance. Chicago-based researchers evaluated the consequences and concluded that retention is harmful. Retained students did less well academically than comparable students who were promoted, and retention increased the likelihood of dropping out.