Does Testing Really Work?

Ready? Set. Go! You will have 55 minutes to complete the Mathematics portion of your test. If you complete your test prior to the end of the allotted time, please recheck your answers. Do not have the same letter darkened in for two or more questions in a row. The instructions listed are guidelines given to student’s completing standardized testing each year. Do the tests really work in assessing how well a child learns or applies skills in daily life? Are test results used to help student’s excel or help those with low scores, or are school systems only interested in funding they may receive if scores increase on a yearly basis?

The original intent of standardized testing was a psychological test to determine how well a child, or adult, learns in different ways. Today, tests are designed to assess early and middle education student’s abilities. Standardized tests are identical tests administered in similar fashions to two or more students at a given time. School districts across the nation take the results of standardized tests and determine how successful current curriculum teaches different skills creating a standard measure. The standard measure was put into place to allow schools to determine a student’s ability and knowledge, to create a better learning tool, and an opportunity to assist students accomplish a greater gain of knowledge. While intent is well placed, the results do not always complete the task, which was set out to be accomplished. Standardized tests require aptitude and ability that are more easily obtained by children in middle to upper class backgrounds.

Standardized testing is older than many realize; Socrates tested students through conversations, Plato inspired efforts to detail intelligence with the idea of giving power to the most adept, and in 1905, Alfred Binet and Theophile Simon authored A Method of Measuring the Development of the Intelligence of Young Children. Each person wanted to determine the depth of discernment within a young child or student. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) that requires annual testing of public school children in third through eighth grades. President Bush wanted to use the results to help children, parents, and teachers know the depth of learning that is taking place and administer extra help if needed.

Standardized tests are available in different styles, multiple choice, and open-ended testing are only two of the tests available. Multiple-choice tests are questions with four possible answers per question to be answered by completely filling in a bubble below or beside each question with a number two pencil. The number two pencil is constructed with lead that is a conductor of electricity, which allows a machine to score the answer sheets. Multiple-choice tests “are not suited for determining a student’s ability to apply critical thinking skills and carry out complex tasks” (Zucker, 2003. 4,4).

Design of open-ended tests comprises questions that allow students to write sentences in short answer form or compiling a lengthy essay. The asset is the student is able to exhibit their knowledge and ability of critical thinking. While being able to assess writing ability with open-ended test questions, the drawback is that machines are not usable to score essays. There are companies that assemble groups of people to score open-ended tests. Standardized Test Scoring Company, Inc. states, “All readers are selected for their credentials as professionals with a minimum of a 4-year degree and will participate in both training and qualifying” (p. 1).

Comparable age ranges, class, and child development are considered when administering tests. The state of Tennessee assesses early education students, usually kindergarten through eighth grade, by administering the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Achievement Test every Spring. Tennessee, in August 2002, the State School Board renamed the High School End of Course Tests Policy to the High School Examinations Policy. The policy states that students entering the ninth grade in the 2001-2002 school year must successfully pass exams in three separate Gateway Tests; Math, Science and Language. Failed tests result in not issuing high school diplomas. Gateway tests were created in an effort to help students improve their performance, improve the effectiveness of instructional delivery in a school or school system as well as provide accountability to students, teachers, and school systems, alike (High School Examinations Policy, 1). Administration of the Gateway tests is at the end of coursework for a particular subject area.

There are parents and teachers that will argue standardized tests provide the opportunity to know the position of schools and students. President of Public Agenda, Deborah Wadsworth, found “only ten percent or fewer parents felt their children suffered adverse affects from standardized testing: too much pressure academically, too much homework, or too many standardized tests” (McNeil 222). Tests are powerful in making teachers prepare students to take a test correctly, rather than presenting the opportunity to learn from specific subject areas. Standardized tests are able to determine if students will spend their summer vacation on a beach or sweating out summer school (Morse 1). Whether or not you believe standardized testing provides enough data to help students, compensation is based upon results from standardized testing.

While standardized testing does not fully complete the task it set out to finish, standardized testing should remain; but instead, be an informational tool to determine the level of learning within a school system. A student’s full abilities need to be the focus of any test. Test results used strictly to measure a school systems ability to teach, and not focus on an individual’s ability, provides administrators and teachers the ability to focus on teaching student’s how to complete tasks rather than test taking skills. Teaching skills and encouraging students to apply the knowledge learned inside a classroom in real life situations should remain the goal of any educational facility or standardized test.

Work Cited

McNeil, Linda M. Contradictions of Re form: The Educational Costs of Standardized Testing. New York: Routledge, 2000.
Morse, Jode. 2000, June. “Is That Your Final Answer?” Educational Tests and Measurements
Standardized Test Scoring Company, Inc. 2008, Apr 6.
Tennessee High School Examination Policy. 2008, Apr 4.
Zucker, S. 2003, Dec. Fundamentals of Standardized Testing. San Antonio, Tx. Harcourt Assessment, Inc.