Standardized testing seems to come early and often once a child begins elementary school. Quite a bit of weight is placed on the performance of each student on these tests. Their score will provide (according to the test creator) a snapshot of the student’s strengths and weaknesses in almost all content areas. They will receive a ranking of sorts based on how they perform on these assessments. The student’s scores reveal whether they are considered below average, average, or above average in that subject.
The Good and the Bad
However, standardized tests have both pros and cons associated with them. One important pro is that it creates accountability for the teachers and the school. The school’s scores become public record, and if they are lower than the national average, or even neighboring school districts, there will be immense scrutiny placed upon the education procedures of this school. In the same vein, if one teacher has their students continually placing low on standardized tests, then administration will be seriously looking into the situation.
A huge con about standardized testing is that it evaluates the student’s performance on just that one day of the school year. If a student is having a bad day, perhaps feeling a bit ill or didn’t get a good night’s rest, then the score could be much lower than if there were a report on the entire school year.
It also does not recognise the progress that the student may have made throughout the school year. The student could have come into the school year a grade level and a half below where they should have been. They might have made a great improvement, but again, the standardised testing will not show this because it is just looking at their scores that they achieved that one day during the school year.
Why Such a Rush?
It is not unusual to see standardised tests given to students as early as first grade nowadays. If you have ever had an opportunity to spend time in a key stage 2 classroom packed with 25 students, you realise they need constant guidance and reminders on what they need to be doing. Their attention span is still extremely short, and just staying in their seat is sometimes a huge struggle.
I know the company that created the assessment will say that testing them so young will give an early idea of which students need extra help. However, with such importance placed on this one test during this one day a year, wouldn’t you rather hear the thoughts of the teacher that is with these key stage 2 students day-in and day-out on which kids need the extra support? Especially with children so young, how can one test mean so much? Is the government saying that the standardised test is providing more critical information about this young child than the teacher that is with them close to 180 days a year?
Former U.S. President Ronald perhaps said it best when he said the nine most terrifying words a person could hear was, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” The government is playing such a major role in something as important as educational guidelines, yet they cannot figure out themselves how to balance a budget. Maybe they could ask for teacher input on each student, and this could in turn save them millions of dollars that they spend on standardized tests.
When Should Students be Tested?
All standardised tests are mostly administered through online computer programs currently. Multiple-choice questions make up the majority of the tests so it is quickly graded through the automated online scoring program. Still, most results are not provided to the school until the next school year.
Online testing programs assume that each student is proficient in technology. If they are not, this can affect the scores greatly. Because of this and many other reasons, it would make sense to hold off on standardized tests until all students are in high school.
Standardised assessments are often used by colleges to determine if a high school senior will be allowed the privilege to enroll in their higher learning establishment. High school students have the attention span and technology knowledge to make the assessment more valid than what it would be in elementary school. Plus, it will more accurately show all the knowledge the student has gained in the past ten years or so of schooling.
It is said that a student now will have taken over 100 different types of standardized assessments by the time they reach the end of their high school career. Is this a bit of an overkill? Should essential classroom time be used year after year for administering these tests? These are questions that need to be asked to the government officials that decide such things. What is your opinion on this subject?