How useful are standardized tests?

I’m not a fan of standardized testing. It’s not very useful and a great time waster in my opinion. Mostly though, it really bothers me that some people (some school staff and some parents) use these tests to make snap judgments about our kids abilities. Why not get to know a kid instead and allow his likes, dislikes and other personality traits to form your opinions about him, not some test.

On top of forcing snap judgments, standardized tests are insanely unrealistic.

Consider real life: How often, at work or just in normal conversations with others are you given test experiences? When was the last time your boss asked you, “What will you do to solve this finance problem? A. Nothing; B. Make a new budget?; C. Ask Fred what to do?; D. Crunch those numbers again?” I’d wager this rarely happens.

As an employee, you’re expected to give an insightful answer, one much longer than a test answer. The best jobs expect even more – they want you to think outside the box for a very creative answer. Tests do not encourage thinking outside the box. Tests just aren’t that realistic.

Furthermore, much of school now, thanks to No Child Left Behind, consists of standardized tests and getting kids ready for said tests. I’m not the only person who thinks tests mean nothing in the long-term…

Read some teacher comments about tests. Many teachers think all this testing sucks. One teacher over at the WSJ left a telling comment. This teacher says that the district thinks the best policy is to teach these kids how to take tests, using well, more tests. The teacher notes, “They get the textbook publishers’ tests, district mandated tests, and required teacher created tests in addition to those mandated by state and federal law. Children as young as five years old are subjected to an endless barrage of tests, taking time away from differentiated instruction, remediation, and enrichment.” Depressing.

If you’re so inclined, you can also read an older, but excellent collection of research on testing and how it teaches nothing. Tests rank your child, they don’t teach. This is evident if you check out No Child Left Behinds’ record. Testing has helped improve little. In fact part of No Child Left Behind is an expected date by which all kids are supposed to reach proficiency (pass tests). Since this all started, they’ve had to move the dates back, because kids aren’t close to reaching proficiency (by test standards) yet.

Lastly, research shows that even if testing did somehow work, most tests place major emphasis on the most minimal proficiency possible – because tests must be appropriate for low and high level students. Because of this, kids who do know more, learn little new information about topics from these tests.

Thanks to No Child Left Behind, if your kid attends a school that receives funding from the government, they are forced to participate in standardized testing. One way out is to look for an alternative school that focuses on each individual student’s strengths vs. test taking abilities.

You can also revolt at public schools. It’s unlikely your child can be excluded from tests, but as a parent, it’s your job to teach your child that he’s more than some arbitrary test score. Don’t judge your child by test scores and make sure he understands that one test, made to fit many, will never be a good judge of character or ability.

What do you think of standardized tests? Good use of school time or arbitrary and wasteful of your child’s time? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Brandy Henry says

    In public school, I was focused on jumping through hoops to earn grades, not learn – too different things. Standardized testing did nothing to show who studied hard or did their homework on time. Some of the laziest students did great on standardized testing and were put in classes with more work than they could handle or got into colleges I didn’t believe they didn’t deserve simply because they could test well. I’m certain my heartache shows by being labeled based on testing. Bullshit!

  2. says

    That was me too – on the other side though. I was a typical can’t sit still, bored, sort of trouble maker in school – always being sent to principal, drawing or sneaking real books into classes instead of doing work and getting into problems. BUT I was a great tester, even in math, which I literally didn’t understand at all until college. I tested into TAG and other advanced classes, but pulled grades like Ds, Fs, Cs because I refused to do arbitrary work – I wanted to learn stuff I felt like learning and I dropped out of TAG because I hated those classes (I thought folks were stuck up).

    My sister, who was good to the extreme in school (i.e. did all her work, listened to teachers, didn’t talk back) never tested well so she was not considered “advanced”. Based on this stuff we got treated very differently and worse, labeled very differently. Teachers thought I was smart, but not living up to “my potential” thus stupid on purpose, while my sister was considered so-so, even though she got all As and the occasional B. As someone who did test well, but did just about nothing else right in school, I got sick of all the lectures. It makes me so ill thinking of all those years I wasted in school being told we were nothing more than a score or a letter grade. I totally believed I sucked and would end up with nothing good in life. It took a long time to undo all that crap school made me believe was real.

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