Pros & Cons of Standardized Testing

Instructor: Derek Hughes
As a teacher, you will encounter standardized testing many times in your career. This lesson will highlight some of the pros and cons of standardized testing.

Standardized Testing

You have probably already had many experiences with standardized testing, either by taking or protoring them. A standardized test is a type of examination that is administered and scored in the same way in every school and classroom throughtout the U.S. in an attempt to provide an objective measurement of student learning. This type of testing has become very prevalent in modern education.

This lesson will detail some of the pros and cons of standardized testing that you will encounter throughout your teaching career.

The Positives

Imagine that you are teaching a lesson and want to know how effective your teaching is. The most natural way to measure this would be to administer a test to gauge student learning. If your students perform well, you know you are teaching effectively. If they perform poorly, you might need to re-evaluate some of your methods. This is helpful information for any teacher, as you might expect. This evaluation need is met by standarized testing.

Standardized testing is the perfect tool for objectively measuring student achievement. Because the tests are always the same, administered the same way and scored the same way, they are almost perfectly objective. One positive aspect of standardized tests is that they are great tools for objectively measuring student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

Because they are great at measuring teacher effectiveness, standardized tests are also effective in holding teachers and schools accountable for student achievement. They can be and are used to make sure teachers are aware of what their students need to know and are helping them achieve success. Test scores are public record and therefore help schools remain accountable for student achievement and success.

Standardized tests are so named because, no matter which school or classroom you are in, the testing process is identical. This presents another positive aspect of standardized testing: the ability to compare student achievement between schools and across city, county, and state lines. Using standardized tests, you can see how a student in Philadelphia is performing compared to a student in Los Angeles.

This ability to compare student achievement can help ensure that students all across the country are achieving at the highest level. In doing so, we are able to help the entire country improve in education, helping us prepare our students to live and succeed in a global community.

The Negatives

'Yes!', you may be thinking, 'standardized tests are the best!' While it is true that these tests can be very useful for several different reasons, they are not without their drawbacks. Such tests have come under heavy criticism for several reasons that you should be aware of while preparing your students to take them.

The first of these major downsides is that standardized testing often leads to a decrease in classroom time dedicated to teaching and learning more traditional subjects. Teachers often need to spend significant amounts of time preparing students to take the tests so that they can do well, leaving less time to teach subjects that tests do not evaluate, such as social studies. This has resulted in the common phrase of 'teaching to the test', meaning teachers are almost exclusively focused on helping students get good standardized test scores.

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