The Evil of Standardized Testing

With all the hype about standardized testing, you may come to the conclusion that it’s just purely evil. After all, we’re all created with individual gifts and talents, and should accommodate learners according to their abilities.

Then what’s the goal of standardized testing? Is it to create a benchmark, or is it to assess learning? Or is the problem that “standardized” really has nothing to do with the purpose of the test, but only refers to the way it is administered?

This is why the importance of knowing the meaning of words and the context in which they’re presented is important.

If you agree with the latter question, then the format of the testing is not applicable to every student. Even some students with genius IQs will get paper with circles on them and fill them in just to make patterns. They know they know the material, and don’t really care that the outcome of the test will determine the funding a school district receives from the State’s education budget. Some of my classmates back in the day did precisely that.

Therefore, is the goal of standardized testing to created a benchmark to show where improvement and remediation is needed and where successful students can be further challenged? Or is it to have every student perform at an acceptable level measured against some arbitrarily chosen standard? If it’s the latter, then we’re using the tool incorrectly.

We should be giving the test before the material is taught. If it’s to create a standardized benchmark, it’s not an assessment, but a pre-assessment. Most of these tests are given in the Spring to determine the knowledge base of a learner in that particular grade, crunched over all tests to determine a benchmark, then evaluated against an individual school’s crunched numbers to evaluate the performance of the school. If the purpose is to determine a standard, these tests should be given at the start of the school year, or at then end of the previous grade level. That is, 5th graders take a test in the Spring to show where 5th graders “are” in their learning. But the interpretation is that a 5th grader should know “X.” If the test participants have not yet completed 5th grade, then the time that the test is administered is incorrect, since their learning should be assessed after 5th grade is completed – as in, when they start 6th grade.

The problem is using the right tool for the wrong purpose.  It’s being used evaluatively, as in, “Did the student achieve the standard, and how well did they do so?”  Much of this is done without the student being aware of the expectation.  Using the tool as it stands right now is akin to using a screwdriver to put a screw in a 2×4 before drilling a pilot hole. Of course, if the learner can’t complete the test in a “standardized” way, then it’s like using a hammer to pound the screw into the board.