Standardized testing in schools has become common practice, but like most things, there good and bad associated with them. This lesson will explore some negative effects of standardized testing in schools.
What Is Standardized Testing?
Standardized testing is a practice by which exams are administered and scored in a uniform way, meaning they are administered and scored in the same way in every school and classroom. These tests are used to gauge student learning and hold schools and teachers accountable for student success. These tests became more common with the introduction of No Child Left Behind in 2001, which stated that if schools didn't perform well on these tests, they could be restructured, taken over by an outside agency, or, as a worse case scenario, closed.
However, standardized testing also has some negative effects on schools, teachers, and students. This lesson will explore some of these negative effects.
Negative Effects on Teachers and Students
Standardized tests don't always measure student learning as intended. Not every student learns or demonstrates academic achievement in the same way, so it is impossible to have a test that will accurately reflect every student's effort and knowledge. This fact makes standardized test scores a flawed metric in many instances.
Additionally, in many cases standardized testing puts an incredible amount of stress on both teachers and students. Teachers are often judged professionally by their students' scores on standardized tests. This means that their jobs are sometimes on the line when it comes to standardized testing.
This stress often leads to teachers placing emphasis on the importance of high scores within the classroom, transferring the stress to the students. Imagine being told that your entire professional future hinges on your students' performances on one test. Now, imagine that you happen to be a student who generally doesn't perform very well on tests, even though you know you are learning well and succeeding in other areas. Either case is an unfortunate side effect of standardized tests.
Finally, modern society requires certain traits from individuals that standardized testing cannot measure. To be successful in a global economy, students need to come out of school having learned creative problem solving, innovation, and collaboration with others. Standardized testing measures none of this. The time students should be spending practicing these skills is instead spent learning how to take the test.
Negative Effects On Education and the Curriculum
Opponents of standardized tests point to a slippery slope effect that they have had on education in the last decade. Many schools have begun spending a larger amount of time teaching students how to take standardized tests. Because a school's success is measured by the standardized test scores, it is imperative that each student perform well on the tests. However, this might be impossible for some students who don't demonstrate learning in a very rigid, structured way.
As teachers, administrators, and schools are pressured to help their students perform better on these tests, they end up spending more classroom time teaching test-taking skills than the actual curriculum. When the time of the year comes around that testing is going to be taking place, more classroom time is devoted to teaching test-taking strategies as opposed to math, reading, and other subjects.
Another negative effect of standardized testing is that it generally makes school curricula more basic. The tests focus on bare minimum standards; therefore, teachers are encouraged to teach only those standards. A curriculum designed around helping students achieve high test scores strips away excess academic content and boils learning down to only those topics that will be covered by the exams.
When students are spending several hours each day being drilled on certain facts and test-taking strategies rather than exploring new things, the end result is often boredom and a lack of enthusiasm in the classroom. Students are more interested and excited about learning when they are engaged on multiple levels. Standardized testing strips away this engagement and makes learning a rote and boring affair.
Though standardized tests, or exams that are administered and scored in the same way in every school and classroom, were originally designed to help accurately measure student achievement, the increased focus on high test scores has had many unintended negative effects on education. These include the loss of classroom time devoted to learning traditional subjects, added stress on teachers and students, less interesting and in-depth curricula, and a lack of focus on important skills students need to participate in a global economy. While these tests may have been introduced with the best of intentions, it is clear that they have had many negative effects on student learning.