The problem is not standardized tests – it is the implementation of standardized testing.
When no standards are applied, how do you evaluate something/someone? That is why many people are willing to pay for Consumer Reports – which is routinely judged as an impartial rating of products. Otherwise, we are stuck with either reading random reviews on the web (usually paid for/sponsored by the maker), or rely upon our friends’ opinions (which are spotty, at best).
In the education environment, without a standardized test, how do I compare the “top” student of a large, urban school to a “top” student from a small, rural school? I need a “Consumer Reports” evaluation for students.
That’s where something like (insert your favorite standardized test here) is appropriate. It levels the field, and allows you to compare different students.
Of course, which test is used, and how well it measures whatever is being evaluated, is an entirely different discussion. For argument’s sake, let’s just agree that we need some means of comparing students.
There is another discussion that arises from this topic – why are standardized tests needed? There are several answers to this question. For example:
- colleges and universities need a method to select students for admission
- employers need to understand a prospective employee’s credentials
But the real problem is implementation, and the ubiquity of standardized testing. If the only standardized tests being administered are to a) demonstrate mastery of subject matter, and b) demonstrate overall readiness for college entrance (think SAT), then it is not really a problem.
However, our children are routinely being subjected to an increasing battery of tests, which are not helping the learning process. For example, take standardized tests which allow schools to be compared to each other (in Florida, where I am located, the FSA is administered). Since the results of these tests can impact school and teacher ratings, the tests have come to assume great importance. In at least one case (for which I have personal knowledge), the school’s regular curriculum was suspended for six weeks to allow preparation for the FSA. I have heard from others that this is routine.
Ironically, I will have my daughter (who is homeschooled) participate in this standardized testing, because it is a means for us to demonstrate that her homeschooling experience is meeting the minimum expected standards!
In my view, standardized testing has its place, but must be carefully monitored, and curtailed when it is not in the student’s best interests. The means to achieve the best interests of the students, is to push accountability back down to the teachers (where it belongs), and to remove the burdens imposed at the state and federal level, whenever possible.