Put Your No. 2 Pencils Down- Standardized Testing is Ineffective

Madison Munoz, Contributor

This week, students across the state of Texas will be faced with a sheet of blank bubbles and an ominously ticking clock.

The controversy over whether or not standardized testing is the best way to measure student achievement has gained traction year after year. The debate raises the question: are students being subjected to tests that do not accurately measure intelligence, performance, and progress; or are these tests really fair, efficient, and comprehensive tools that have caught a bad rep? 

There is a clear need to reassess how effective standardized testing is. As of late, more and more evidence points to the conclusion that standardized tests do not reflect individual students, and they fail to meaningfully measure progress. 

Standardized tests do not focus on individual success, but rather push a standard that ignores student’s needs. An article published by the Washington Post titled 11 Problems Created by Standardized Testing Obsession by Valerie Strauss explores the deficiencies with “one-size-fits-all-curriculum.” Strauss said; “the standardized testing regime fails to recognize the importance of individual achievement in education and instead uses a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to learning that ignores students’ individual interests and abilities.” 

Standardized tests are more concerned with the score students receive, rather than the quality of education they get in the classroom. It imposes a “teaching to the test” mentality on educators that stalls students’ actual learning.

But what’s the alternative? Many parents, teachers, and administrators are concerned about what type of system might take the place of standardized testing. Some seem to hold the belief that without standardized testing, measuring achievement is simply not possible. And although these concerns are valid, there are possible solutions.

An article from NPR titled What Schools Could Use Instead of Standardized Testing by Anya Kamenetz addresses this worry. Kamenetz said; “missing from this debate, however, is a sense of what could replace annual tests. What would the nation do to monitor learning and ensure equity and accountability if states didn’t have to test every child every year?” 

The article goes on to discuss the concept of a “stealth assessment,” in which resources from nonprofit organizations, like Khan Academy, can be used as a diagnostic tool. The major takeaway from this alternative is that it can actively measure students’ progression- thus focusing on individual achievement. In this way, students are still being assessed, without having to interrupt learning to spend time training for and taking a standardized test.

Measuring student achievement is necessary for academic growth, however, relying on standardized testing to fulfill this need only hurts students and teachers in the long run. Students are individuals, they are people, and people cannot be standardized. To ensure progress in our students, our educational system, and our society as a whole, it is crucial to phase out our score obsessed narrative, and incorporate more wholistic alternatives.

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