Are Standardized Tests Fair To Use To Track Achievement?

The negatives and positives of standardized tests and their uses the schools.

A standardized test is a test that is given in a controlled environment. When taking a standardized test, the students are specifically told where they will take the test, when the test will be given to them, how long they will have to take the test and how they are to answer the questions on the test.

Standardized tests are scored the same exact way without room for partial credit. They expect the same answers from all of the students who take the test. There is no room for individual interpretation of the question or answer.

Standardized tests tend to make students and their parents uncomfortable. The tests are usually used to assess a student's ability and achievement. Standardized tests are often misused because they tend to identify a student's memory of knowledge and separate those students who are "smarter" than the other students. Actually, those students who are considered "smarter" are probably just better at memory and recall questions.

Standardized tests can be found being used in classrooms ranging from Kindergarten through college. It is not likely that the education system will stop the use of standardized tests in the future. School life is too dependent on the results. For instance, most college entrance exams are standardized.

Unfortunately, it is not the tests that are the problem. It is the way in which the results are used. Too many times, the results are being used to label students or place them in programs associated with their abilities. This can have negative results.

There are a few problems with the use of standardized tests. It causes students to be more concerned with studying only to pass a test rather than studying to improve themselves. Anxiety becomes a part of their education.

The use of standardized tests also affects the teachers. The teachers begin to help their students pass the tests by gearing the lessons towards the test material. Part of this reason is because both the teacher and the school are judged on how well the students do on the tests overall.

But should standardized tests be eliminated in the schools? Is it causing that much of a problem in America? The assessment of students cannot be based on competitive test scores alone. Assessment needs to consist of more than just tests. It needs a variety of testing methods. Standardized tests are just one method among many. They should be used in conjunction with other methods. Giving a standardized multiple choice test just measures what kind of a test taker the student happens to be, it does not necessarily measure the knowledge that the students has.

The teacher should only use the standardized test's results to determine how well they are teaching the curriculum to the students. Are they getting the material across to the students in the class? Does a lesson need to be repeated? They can then use the scores to identify which students need more help and which need more of a challenge.

Most of the problems with using a standardized test come from the fact that the students need to be taught how to take them. They need to be taught how to read the instructions, how to pace themselves during the test, how to mark the answer sheets, how to choose the correct answer, etc. So the effort and time that is used to teach how to take a standardized test could have been used on educational curriculum.

Standardized tests can be used to measure achievement if they have the following qualities: validity, reliability and norms. The test results show validity if appropriate and meaningful inferences can be made based on them. The standardized test is reliable if the results are dependable and consistent. If the students get the same answers each time the test is given then the test is reliable. The norms are the tables that are drawn up after the results of a test are received. The norms show the performance of the students when grouped together by age, grade, score, etc. The norms allow the teachers to see how well their students performed on the various areas of the standardized test. For instance, when the norms are based on scores, the teachers can see what material was learned and what was not. This is determined by the information shown on the table.

So, if the standardized test being used actually measures the information that the teacher wants it to measure and if the students achieve the same score on different versions of the same test, then the test is valid and reliable.

But because general intelligence is not limited to cognitive abilities, a standardized achievement test should only be used to determine a student's strengths and weaknesses. It can also be used to support any feeling a teacher may have about a student's academic potential.

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