Standardized testing... is it really that bad?I have been asked through numerous social media outlets to sign petitions opposing standardized testing, but I can't determine whether they are really that bad. It is clear to me that the petitions focus on the negative aspects of standardized testing, but I am wondering what about the positive aspects?
In my current courses at the University, which are full of students who will be entering the work force as teachers in the next few months, the topic of standardized tests has come up. In my classes, people cringe when they hear about standardized tests. Tension fills the room and I wouldn't be surprised if saliva was shot to the floor over the mention of the words "Standardized Tests".
I have come to the realization that standardized tests and assessments are widely used in schools already in order to determine reading levels or student achievement levels. We can understand our students' needs and possible exceptionalities with none other than the "dreaded" standardized test.
They exist in our schools and education system already, so is creating and administering more standardized tests really a bad thing?I have looked at a few blogs, some about the myths of standardized test others opposing standardized tests, and read some reasons as to why standardized tests are good or bad.
My Background I grew up in a province where standardized tests were the norm. In Grades 3, 6, 9, and 12, I completed standardized tests that were produced and distributed by the province, based on the curriculum that is created and mandated by the province, and results were analyzed by the province. The results were often used to rank schools, which may not be the best practice, but the results also made it apparent what areas the province needs to focus on, what parts of the curriculum may need to be re-vamped or what resources may need to be made accessible to all teachers to improve students' learning. The results also let classroom teachers, schools, and school districts know what areas they need more support in and what areas they may want to focus on.
While this information is valuable, the ranking of schools may result in problems in schools that are ranking below average, although a below average rating could also provide the school, students, and teachers to strive for a better ranking next time. It all depends on how you look at it.
What I learned from Standardized tests-
- I learned how to study and pick out the important points that were taught and discussed
- I learned how to work through various types of questions- multiple "guess"/choice, true or false, short answer, long answer, fill in the blanks, you name it and I probably know a strategy or two on how to successfully answer it
- I made meaningful connections to the content in order to remember it, what was taught needed to be valuable in order for students to succeed
- I learned about test anxiety, how to cope with it and how to work with it
- I learned what it would be like to write a final exam in university- everyone being herded into the gym, complete silence, and having a time limit in order to complete the test
- I also learned what it feels like to write an exam that is worth a large percentage of my grade, again something else that prepared me for university
- I learned how to write paragraphs, essays, and written responses in order to please anonymous scorers/graders- I knew my test was going to be graded by some great teachers from around the province, so I made sure my answers showed not only that I knew the answer, but that I also composed it in a way to prove that I could write, I was also able to show my creativity in my answers and show how I can apply knowledge to different situations
I feel that my high school and previous standardized testing experiences prepared me for university, and I know there are many nay-sayers out there saying "What if you don't go to university, is this really beneficial?" Right now I would say yes, it teaches the importance of deadlines, personal motivation to complete a task, and working under pressure.
Negative experiences with standardized tests-
- Competition- I have a twin sister, and when we got the results mailed out, I was always below her, I didn't perform poorly, but in my eyes, I was never as good as my sister, and this created an academic competition in our house
- The stress- students break down, freak out, due to the stress, especially in Grade 12 when one standardized test is worth 50% of your final grade. Your Grade 12 grades are used to get into any type of post-secondary schools
- Test Anxiety- I know a lot of students who suffer from test anxiety, and this only appeared in their life once they were required to write a standardized test worth 50% of their grade
- A one shot deal- Tests are only a snapshot on one day of all the information I learned, it was apparent what classes I was confident in and which ones I was not, but I found that the grades I had received on the in-class component and the grades on the standardized test parts were very similar, in fact, sometimes I performed better on the test than I had throughout the semester
I understand the financial concerns that the money and time used for creating, distributing, and grading these tests could go to more resources and improving schools or programs already in place, but then I got to thinking that the people at the Ministry of Education are the "government" that is making this decision. From my understanding most of the people working with the Ministry of Education are/were teachers themselves. Would these people "waste" money because they can? Would they want teaching to become an assembly line , producing machines that can answer specific questions rather than critical thinkers? I highly doubt it.
So considering all of this, is standardized testing really that bad?