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Standardized Testing

When was the last time you took a multiple choice test? Your answer is probably not since you have completed your education, unless to obtain some type of certification. Why is that?  That’s because multiple choice tests don’t connect to real life. Even though standardized testing is a main focus for education reform, it’s not the right direction we should be taking as a nation. The real goal of education should be to prepare students to succeed in the “real world”, and that cannot happen through standardized tests.

Nearly all Americans feel that standardized testing has done more harm than good. Almost 70% of Americans say that standardized testing has had a negative effect and only 22% say that it has had a positive effect. Many supporters argue that the tests motivate the students to excel, help to focus the teachers on the educational goals of the state, and provides data to compare students, schools and teachers. Contrary to this argument, most students don’t care how they do on the assessments because it doesn’t affect them academically, and standardized tests force the teachers to focus more, but they only “teach to the test” and not to educate the students in other aspects. Also, it costs the states money that could be used more effectively elsewhere, and there are other ways in which to compare success of the students, schools and teachers. For example, instead of looking at standardized tests to measure “accountability”, take samples of students and have them perform projects or activities. Other nations score higher on these types of assessments because of those techniques, rather than the U.S. who is the only economically advanced nation to rely heavily on multiple choice tests.

Also, many advocates say frequent testing is good for students and helps to raise scores, which I agree with but not to the extent of frequent state testing. Frequent quizzes on every day of class helps the students retain the information for the exam later, but standardized tests don’t require that information needed later. Referring to the chart, through classroom assessments such as quizzes or performance tasks, you learn and acquire a greater amount of knowledge than you do through national or state assessments. For example, in my Anatomy class I had quizzes every day over the material taught during the previous lesson. At first I thought they were pointless and wouldn’t do anything for me other than lowering my grade. But in fact, they helped to raise my grade and help me do better on my exams. I was struggling in the beginning of the class, but because of the quizzes my grade gradually improved. If it wasn’t for that consistent quizzing, I wouldn’t have retained the information that well.

Standardized tests are not very reliable because students have been known to cheat and guess. According to a study done by John S. Baird, 75% of 200 students surveyed admitted to cheating in college. It is common sense to see that it is easier to cheat by looking over the shoulder to find the right possibility between A, B, C or D rather than reading a fill in the blank or short answer question. There have been precautions made in order to protect against cheating, but you can’t ever guarantee it. You can also never guarantee there will not be students that don’t care and just make designs with their multiple choice answers. Through the questions that are fill in the blank or short answer, it is not as easy to guess. There has to be at least some thinking involved in those sorts of questions. As mentioned previously, my anatomy class had no multiple choice questions. The professor said he didn’t believe in them because taking a multiple choice test requires no knowledge; you can simply guess your way through the class. I hated it in the beginning and thought the class was going to be the death of me because I needed to know everything exact. But after the class was over, I realized that I learned more in that class than in any other class. Therefore, multiple choice tests can’t measure the knowledge that education should be giving us.

Standardized tests don’t measure the ability to think, apply and connect ideas, or creativity which are all more important than the memorization of facts that the students are encouraged to cough out on demand. When scores are high on standardized tests, it’s usually not a good sign like you would expect it to be. Higher test scores imply bad news because it means all the important things are being sacrificed to provide money for the tests. Things like field trips, the arts or technology, or electives are being taken away first because they are seen to not be as important as the advanced classes or important subjects such as math, history, English or science. Also, the better scores usually imply that the teachers are “teaching to the test”, which means they only focus on the material within the test. This includes grammar rules, algebraic formulas, or things such as vocabulary. The tests don’t measure if the students can apply those vocabulary words, formulas or grammar rules. The tests only determine if the students can spit out the facts in a timed environment.

The main problem with standardized testing is that it places too much weight on one test. How can you measure an entire years worth of material and information by a set of questions that are multiple choice? That is too constricted for such an important matter of education. Instead of sitting back and watching the education system decline, we need to get motivated and remove the standardized tests from our education system. We don’t want to be sending off the next generations of the world into society with no preparations other than knowing how to circle in the bubble of a multiple choice question.

Written By Emily Clift

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Categories: Standardized Testing
  1. Akil Bello
    December 7, 2010 at 12:57 am

    While passionate your argument seems to want for critical analysis of the subject matter. You have passed judgment on standardized testing perhaps without carefully evaluating the defendant. Lets look at 3 points from your argument:

    1. Testing doesn’t affect students academically and thus students give no effort to tests.
    This statement seems to fly in the face of the contention that tests carry too much weight and also is contrary to evidence that many states require passing tests to advance to the next grade level. Also you had to “pass” a test to get into the college you are in so the ACT/SAT did affect you. Given the significant impact of the test how can you contend that students do not take them seriously. Its an equally valid argument that students profess not to care about testing as a defensive mechanism to cover fear of failure.

    2. You imply that there is no thinking or reasoning skills required for standardized exams. I ask you to review the tests you are indicting in such a manner and see if that is actually true. While it might not be the type of thinking you prefer there is definitely thinking and reasoning necessary to succeed on any well-written standardized tests. Simply because a test is presented in multiple choice format does not make it lack sophistication or depth. Consider the following question:

    1. Using the distribution method, solve the following equation for x.

    3(x + 14) = 134

    2. What is the value of 4x + 10y, if 3(2x + 5y) = 11?
    (A) 11
    (B) 11/3
    (C) 3.3
    (D) 22/3
    (E) it cannot be determined

    The first question is not multiple choice but I would argue that the second requires more analytical thinking, critical reasoning, and understanding of math principles. It also requires the ability to think apply and connect ideas?

    I look forward to your reply!

  2. Keily Thornsbury
    December 7, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I kind of agree! I believe standardized testing does have a pretty good purpose, but doesn’t prove too much. Maybe it won’t help us in the “real world,” but we’ve dealt with it. It’s the only accurate form to determine intelligence; however for bad test takers like me, it doesn’t prove anything. Colleges look at your ACT and SAT scores and determined by those if you are accepted or not, which isn’t totally fair at all, but what can you do? They could accept someone who merely guessed through the whole test, how far that will get them in life, only to the stepping stone. I totally agree that it doesn’t measure you ability to think, during most of it for average students they take a guess at most questions because of the time limit.

  3. E Wilson
    December 8, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    This is a really good essay you made a lot of really good points. all of the sources are really good and it supports your argument so well and the percentages give us a realistic idea on how bad this problem really is. i believe standardized tests are not the right way to get students to do better in school.

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