EXPLAINED: Why Do We Need Standardized Tests?
Student test scores can be used to evaluate states’ educational systems, districts, schools, and occasionally even teachers. This is one of the most divisive education issues today. The question is, what precisely are standardised tests? What are they used for, and why are there so many of them?
What makes a test “Standardised?”
For a test to be standardised, it must be administered to all students using the same set of questions. This enables those who examine the data to draw comparisons between several cohorts of students. Using multiple-choice or true-false questions on these examinations increases the likelihood that the findings will be objective and fair, with less room for prejudice or partiality.
All kinds of knowledge are needed in curriculum, child development, culture and language, statistical analysis, and psychometrics in order to create an accurate test and evaluate its results.
Weirdly, it seems that Students are required to take so many Exams.
Standardized tests are, and have been, an integral part of our lives for a long time. When you take a newborn to the doctor, the doctor uses a “standardised” checklist to evaluate the baby’s health. What is the baby’s weight in relation to other children of the same age and are they achieving developmental milestones as expected? You must take a written test to demonstrate your familiarity with the road rules before you can apply for a driver’s licence in your state. A standardised test is used to determine whether or not you comprehend the fundamentals of American government when applying for citizenship.
As a result, standardised examinations may be incredibly helpful for instructors and their institutions in gauging development and addressing the needs of their pupils. Approximately half of the states in the United States require students to take a test to determine whether they are ready for kindergarten. The SAT and ACT are the two most common tests that students take while applying to college (although some colleges are now dropping this requirement in the interest of making admissions more equitable). The LSAT is required if you want to attend law school. The MCAT is required of everyone interested in attending medical school. PISA, a test administered in 79 countries, allowing for comparisons to be made between the educational systems in those countries. Math and reading were the two subjects where the United States ranked the worst.
Too many tests, on the other hand, can be a bad thing. For this reason, your child’s school year assessments serve a variety of functions. During a social studies unit, for example, a teacher might provide a test to determine whether or not pupils have retained the information he or she has taught them. One way to determine whether or not instructional materials are effective or whether or not teachers require extra training is for the principal to administer tests to every student in a grade level if there has been a pattern of decreased math proficiency. Some school districts employ standardised diagnostic exams like NWEA’s MAP tests or Curriculum Associates’ iReady tests several times a year to drill down on what individual pupils are learning. In addition, federal law mandates that states test kids in grades 3-8 and high school once a year in reading and arithmetic.
Government involvement in Standardised testing has always puzzled me.
Despite the fact that the United States has many excellent educational institutions, we have had a long history of academic underachievement. “If an unfriendly foreign force had attempted to impose on America the dismal educational performance that exists now, we would well have seen it as an act of war,” said a bipartisan group of educators and politicians in 1983 in a study called “A Nation at Risk.”
Little has changed. Tom Loveless, an education specialist, adds, “What surprises me is how steady U.S. performance [on PISA] is. Since the beginning, the results have been unimpressive.”
Two-thirds of pupils fail the National Assessment of Educational Progress (also known as the “Nation’s Report Card”), a standardised test administered to representative groups of students.
In order to promote education in the United States, the federal government began requiring schools to use standardised examinations. It was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2003 that gave new life to the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which attached additional money for underprivileged kids to state compliance (NCLB). In order to qualify for the additional federal cash, states were required to annually assess student learning through standardised tests (grades 3-8 and once in high school). Historically underrepresented populations, such as kids with impairments, English language learners, and low-income youngsters, had to have their test scores reported out as well. “Adequate Yearly Progress,” or AYP, was a benchmark for each group, as well as schools, districts, and states.
Is it because Standardised Examinations have become so Divisive?
They weren’t contentious before! The federal government got involved and American educators and authorities were concerned about high school graduates’ college and career preparedness.
No Child Left Behind is often cited as the turning point in the debate over the validity of standardised exams. Students of colour and their white counterparts had large performance discrepancies, which were rapidly revealed by those exam scores.
The result was that we began to pay greater attention to student achievement and the racial disparities in student performance. State education departments, districts, schools, and even individual teachers are now being rated on the basis of test results, rather than merely archiving them. After this, there were a number of questions:
- Why is this school producing pupils who are terrible at arithmetic, while students at this other school are geniuses?
- Are textbooks to blame for this?
- Does it belong to the head of the school?
- Is there a difference in how well one school supports its teachers compared to another?
Are there more homeless students, pupils with disabilities, or English-language learners at a specific school than elsewhere?
Teachers and administrators in several cases believed that they had been unfairly targeted. Parents were sometimes astonished to find out that their children were not learning as much as they had hoped, and this often left them feeling disappointed. The idea that standardised exams are used to punish teachers and administrators unfairly or to deny kids the chances they desire, such as admittance to specialised schools or programmes, exists, and it is occasionally true.
The unrealistically ambitious aim of achieving 100 percent competency by the 2013-2014 school year is one illustration of NCLB’s too invasive nature. States responded by lowering standards and making tests easier to pass in order to continue receiving federal cash. Many instructors viewed the “drill-and-kill” test-prep atmosphere created by NCLB as toxic and demoralising to students, resulting in the loss of much of the joy of school and learning.
For these and other reasons, the law was reauthorized again in 2015, and the No Child Left Behind Act became the Every Student Succeeds Act, which reduced the federal role by removing annual benchmarks and allowing states to decide how to hold themselves accountable.
Individual school and district test scores must still be made available to the general public so that people can see which schools are doing a good job and which aren’t. Using this information, we intend to improve educational outcomes for students across the country, particularly those who have been underserved.
Standardized tests may be perceived as a kind of Racial Discrimination.
Racism is one of the most deadly and widespread structural disparities in the United States, and it permeates every part of life, from badly maintained houses to subpar medical treatment to food insecurity to fewer resources for schools serving students of colour.. When Lewis Terman made the rude and incorrect assertion that I.Q. testing indicated African Americans, Spanish-Indians, and Mexicans were less intelligent than white people a century ago, he was not the first to use standardised tests.
Tests can be influenced in a variety of ways. What is the best analogy between “runner” and “marathon”? There was a famous example in the 1990s in which a SAT question questioned this. Oarsman and regatta were the words that came up, words that only well-off teens would know. This was a classic case of racial and socioeconomic discrimination.
Standardized testing, on the other hand, can be an effective tool for combating inborn bias. Black and brown pupils may be disregarded if teachers’ impressions are the only factor in determining their eligibility for gifted and talented programmes. Students of colour are more likely to be selected for acceleration if standardised testing is employed instead.
Programs for culturally, ethnically, and socioeconomically sensitive testing have also been launched by testing businesses. Publishing editorial standards on issues including diversity, equity, and inclusion were among Pearson’s priorities in 2021.
In fact, the use of standardised testing can perpetuate racial inequalities and systemic prejudice in education. However, without them, we’re left to the whims of individual judges. As a result of this coalition, the National Urban League urged the U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to mandate that all states maintain their standardised testing schedules during the coronavirus pandemic. They claimed,
Civil rights have nothing to do with Standardised Testing.
Equal and equitable treatment has long been a central concern in civil rights law. There are structures in place to ensure that every child has the same opportunity for success, regardless of their family’s money or skin colour, in education.
This desire remains unfulfilled in numerous ways. Civil rights advocates, on the other hand, can use standardised test scores to demonstrate the glaring injustices in our current school system.
Brightbeam discovered that in San Francisco, 70 percent of white pupils are proficient in arithmetic, compared to just 12 percent of black students, a discrepancy of nearly 60 percentage points. America’s challenge is to raise achievement and infuse equity into our schools, and this pattern—white pupils massively outperforming Black students—is widespread.
Visit Why Proficiency Matters, a simple online tool for revealing racial proficiency gaps (also referred to as “achievement gaps”), if you want to see the differences in how your state and/or city serve pupils of different races.
We need standardised examinations to help close the huge gaps between the sexes. They give us a concrete assessment of how well our schools are serving the most vulnerable students. In order to establish more equal educational frameworks, states and school districts rely on the data they receive from these assessments.
Students of all backgrounds, regardless of colour, religion, or socioeconomic status, should have the same access to a quality education and legal protections as everyone else. To put it another way, education is the most pressing civil rights problem of our day, as everyone from this Kentucky teacher to Michelle Obama to Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump have all said.
Do we need to test every Youngster because of the Federal Government’s Demands? Isn’t it Possible to look at the performance of a School System by testing a Small number of Students?
Every other year, a representative sample of pupils in each state receives the so-called “Nation’s Report Card.” It’s a great tool! NAEP, on the other hand, does not provide us with as much information about individual students’ proficiency as more targeted and inclusive examinations, like as the SAT and ACT.
It’s important to note that NAEP does not penalise students for bad results. It’s a gauge for how well our country’s schools are doing across the board. This ensures the validity and comparability of the findings.
So how can we ensure that governments and districts are genuinely working to enhance the education they provide for pupils who are underserved? To help with this, we have the federal government. We should remember that the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” not the “Some Students Succeeds Act,” is our current national education law. It is now required by federal law that states identify districts, schools, and specific groups of children that need more support if they have an excessive number of pupils who are not reaching standards in math or reading.
Schools and districts would not be able to improve their performance if states merely assessed a subset of students. It would be impossible to tell which pupils in underserved communities are getting the support and teaching they need to succeed, which is more essential. That’s why each state must set lofty academic goals for all children, regardless of their colour, income, or handicap, and report on the progress made toward those goals.
In addition, how do these educational institutions, districts, or collections of students get their names? Standardized tests are used for this purpose. Certainly, no test is error-free. However, there are only basic trends can be seen when examining such a vast system. Even when some of your children aren’t, it’s easy to say, “they’re all fine.”
Is it Possible to rely on these Examinations to accurately gauge Student Progress?
There is no single test that can accurately measure a student’s arithmetic and reading proficiency. For example, we don’t utilise state standardised assessments to rate your child’s report card grades because we don’t believe that’s the case. It’s possible to use these assessments to identify which pupils in a particular school are having difficulty, and whether or not it’s necessary to make educational adjustments.
The term “accountability” is used in the education policy sector to describe the concept of holding schools accountable when standardised test results show they are underperforming. It’s also a crucial part of civic liberties. Either Rosa Parks in the all-white bus or Nashville’s education activists tackling a literacy crisis where seven out of ten third graders are unable to read at grade level, we must first recognise the issue and then take action.
So, for example, imagine that the fifth-grade students at your child’s elementary school sit for the state reading test and find out that they did even worse than previous year. Are there more students with learning impairments this year? Is it possible that there were too many snow days this year? Is there a new reading programme in the district that may be slowing down student progress? Is there less support for teachers than there was in the past? Do students not receive more one-on-one attention because the school increased class sizes last year?
Standardized test results can help instructors focus on the root causes and, as a result, find more effective ways to help students. Teachers and parents would have no idea if there was an issue if they didn’t take the test. It’s impossible to fix something if you can’t see it.
My child’s teacher is someone I can rely on to tell me if he or she is having difficulties. Why put him through the agony of taking a test?
Our teachers have a good sense of how their students are progressing. Teachers, on the other hand, are a part of a much broader system over which they have no influence. Big institutions, like school districts or even state education departments, are extremely difficult to transform, especially when they’ve been under-serving the same groups of students for a generation or more. These systems can only be altered with the help of standardised tests and their resulting statistics.
Improving systems necessitates considerable effort. While your child may be well, there is a lot at stake in our national efforts to improve educational outcomes for students who have been underserved by our educational system for decades.
Was there a change in Standardised testing because of the COVID-19 Pandemic?
In a plague-ridden year, requiring students to take assessments would be meaningless and cruel. Trump’s administration enabled states to waive the 2020 spring standardised examinations early in the outbreak.
A similar move was expected from the Biden administration in 2013, given that many students were still taking classes online and that schools had been struggling to keep up with demand for educational resources. It was a difficult year for students, and many of them would have fallen behind if the Biden administration didn’t take civil rights and educational justice groups’ concerns into consideration, so states were required to continue testing.
However, in reality, we are losing two years of data because states have been given a great deal of leeway in how and whom they test in 2021. Districts that want to assess the efficacy of their schools and curricula will have enormous challenges as a result of this, and the civil rights movement will lose an important instrument in its lobbying arsenal as a result.
What are the chances to become involved?
Understand why students are taking the tests they are taking.
Become a savvy shopper by doing your research. In the age of information, knowledge truly is power. In order to advocate effectively, you need to know the purpose of specific tests and how your school intends to use the data. Is it for the purpose of teaching? Is the goal to track changes in the state? Does it have anything to do with federal law?
To help children recover from a year of school closures, states will receive $125 billion under the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan. One of the conditions is that your state devise a method to monitor student progress during this epidemic year. There’s no escaping the fact that you’ve lost some knowledge. To deal with the situation, we’ll need the information. Hence, attend school board meetings and write or phone your politicians, requesting that your state’s assessment plan for 2021 be executed with honesty, a focus on assisting students and their families, and an unafraid pursuit for factual information.
SPREAD THE WORD that standardised testing helps protect civil liberties..
Standardized testing, even if you aren’t concerned about your own child’s academic progress, helps us measure the widening proficiency gaps in our public education system. As a means of ensuring fair treatment for all children, standardised testing should be encouraged in our public schools. Your community’s comfort level with testing and their comprehension of the vital role it plays in achieving educational equity should be raised through programmes.
Encourage your state, district, or school to improve the quality of its standardised tests.
Current standardised examinations are archaic, which is a shame because they are necessary for closing the learning gaps in society. State education systems must invest in testing infrastructure innovation to reduce the time and money spent on assessments. We have the technology to grade essays automatically, but we never utilise it. We have the ability to tailor exam questions to each student’s level of competency, but we’re not taking advantage of it. There is technology to produce test results in 24 hours, but we don’t make advantage of it.
In order to make assessments less stressful for children, instructors, parents, schools, and states, activists should urge that their state leaders engage in innovation.