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Are Standardized Tests A Valid Measurement Of Student Learning?

1469 words - 6 pages

“Standardized testing is one of the most passionately debated education topics in America” (Baxter, pg. 1). They became much more prevalent after the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act mandated annual testing across the United States. Standardized tests are used to assess students and teachers, however some people object the idea that the performance on a single test is a valid measure of what a student has learned, or what their teacher has taught them. In this paper I will argue that relying solely on standardized testing for student placement damages education.
There are many different types of standardized tests used in schools around the country, but “high-stakes” achievement tests in US elementary and secondary schools have produced the most controversy. “Measurement experts agree that no test is good enough to serve as the sole or primary basis for measuring student learning, achievement gaps, and teacher and school quality, and to impose sanctions based on test scores” (FairTest, pg. 1). First of all, standardized tests are an unreliable measure of student performance because they only measure a small portion of what makes education meaningful. According to late education researcher Gerald W. Bracey, "creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, and resourcefulness” are all qualities that standardized testing cannot measure. The multiple-choice styles of standardized tests encourage simplistic ways of thinking and therefore are believed to be an insufficient assessment tool. Students are required to answer questions where there is only a right or wrong answer, which can be unfair for a number of reasons. One of these reasons being that cultural bias is often found in standardized testing. The tests require children to draw from knowledge they learn or experiences they’ve had outside of school, which is different for each student. According to W. James Popham, an expert on educational assessment, “If children come from advantaged families and stimulus-rich environments, then they are more apt to succeed on items in standardized achievement test items than will other children whose environments don't mesh as well with what the tests measure”. The biases in the development and administration of standardized tests often contribute to the achievement gap between whites and minorities. As a result students from low-income and minority families, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities are more likely to be held back a grade, be placed in unnecessary remedial education programs, and be denied a diploma (Reese, pg. 1). Another problem with standardized testing is the tests do not accurately measure teacher quality. Standardized tests are often used to evaluate teachers and schools staff based on their student’s scores. However, standardized tests are limited indicators of...

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