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Standardized Testing in America

Ruby Drizin-Kahn
CAP 9
Red group
3/31/14

Standardized testing is highly important in todays world because of the impact it has on todays
students and educators. A standardized test is defined by the American Educational Research
Association as any test that is administered, scored, and interpreted and in a standard, predetermined
manner. These sorts of tests are usually composed of multiple choice questions graded by machines, as
well as essay questions. The standardized test industry in the United States is estimated to be a billiondollar industry, and its size will only continue to grow, unless these tests are eliminated from the
education system in the United States. The US Department of Education must ban all standardized
testing in public schools across the nation because of the tests discriminatory methods, their failure to
improve student achievement, and their inadequate assessments of both student and teacher abilities.
Standardized testing in the United States dates back to 1845, when Horace Mann instituted the
practice of testing all public school students in math, spelling, and geography. These standardized tests
were implemented to assess a variety of students, many of whom were immigrants. The first concerns
about standardized testing were articulated in 1905; New York State Department of Education
suggested to the state legislature that sacrificing systematic instruction for the knowledge gained by
studying for standardized tests is a very great and more serious evil. Multiple choice came into play in
1915, when Frederick J. Kelly created the Kansas Silent Reading Test to make scoring easier and faster
(Procon.org). Many schools followed the standardized testing laws, but the schools who found testing
purposeless and unnecessary would simply stop giving them. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson
signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was enacted to raise education
standards by requiring that all public schools give standardized tests. Over the next few decades, the
United States didnt go up or down much in international educational rankings, so in 2002, No Child Left
Behind was passed under the supervision of President George W. Bush, although overhauled in 2013.
NCLB called for annual standardized tests for all public school students in the US, and unlike previous
laws passed which required standardized testing, NCLB provided incentive for counties to give tests and

ensure that the students excelled. It stated that schools had to show annual progress in test scores; if
not, there was the chance that all of the schools staff members would be replaced, the school would be
taken over by the state, or the school would be closed (Gale Cengage Learning). 7 years later, under
President Obama, Race to the Top was put into action. Race to the Top allowed states to compete for
educational funding, based on their schools average test scores. It also involved other factors, like
student attendance and graduation rates.
The controversy over standardized testing has grown exponentially in the past decade. Children
are being tested more than ever before. The United States is one of the few countries that tests
elementary school- age children so frequently with such time-consuming exams, as well as spends
countless hours preparing for them. A study done in a school district on the East Coast showed that up
to six weeks out of the school year were spent preparing for and taking standardized tests (American
Federation of Teachers). In addition, standardized tests are getting costlier every year- in the same
Eastern school district, between $500 and $1,100 are spent on each student; this includes costs for test
purchasing and administration. Furthermore, almost all specialists who have been asked about this are
strongly against giving standardized tests to kids younger than 8 or 9 years old (Alfie Kohn). According to
the National Research Council, most relevant organizations and experts are against having the results of
standardized testing determine important decisions like graduation and promotion.

Standardized tests discriminate against, and are unfair to, students with special needs and
students learning English as a second language. Sid Wolinsky, the founder of Disability Rights Advocates,
said in one interview that standardized tests are often the worst way to assess the abilities of disabled
students since these tests arent made to showcase the strong suits of many disabled students. Also,
since students with learning disabilities often perform badly on standardized tests, some teachers and
administrators will neglect these students, and there have been cases in which teachers have suggested

to these students that they shouldnt take standardized tests. The situation isnt any better for students
learning English as a second language. In a project by the National Education Association, a variety of ESL
teachers were asked about ESL students taking standardized tests. Carol Kula, an ESL educator from
Iowa, noted, We ask them (ESL students) to reach a proficient level on a test, when they have not even
reached a proficient level in the language necessary to complete the test. If a student cant even
understand the questions that the test is asking, how are they supposed to score well on the test?

Over the years, standardized tests have not improved student achievement and instead
correlate with the US drop in world education rankings by nation. In one study of 1400 eighth graders in
Boston public schools, the schools which had raised their students standardized test scores the most
had no impact on the ability of their students to think critically and analyze problems (Trafton).
Standardized tests measure what psychologists call crystallized intelligence, or information learned in
school for the sole purpose of test-taking. However, this is not a true measure of the overall intelligence
of students since it leaves out fluid intelligence, which is the ability to reason and analyze information.
And because fluid intelligence is what most adults use in their jobs and in their everyday lives,
standardized tests dont prepare students for anything in the real world whatsoever. Furthermore, the
implementation of NCLB is the main cause of the United States drop from 18th place in math in 2000, to
31st place in 2009. A similar drop occurred in the US science rankings, and no change occurred in
reading rankings (Procon.org). This simple evidence proves how little standardized tests are helping
current students, and how little they improve student performance.

Standardized tests do not accurately display and assess the abilities and skills of teachers.
According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, having teachers be evaluated by their
students standardized test scores is a recipe for flawed evaluations. Because some test results are
unreliable and inconsistent, many teachers are labeled as ineffective teachers. Being labeled ineffective

has caused hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers across the country to disregard needy students or
even leave their teaching positions (Fair Test). Some counties have even tried to raise standardize test
scores by implementing the idea of pay for performance, in which teachers salaries are raised if their
students do well on exams. But performance pay is a failure for multiple reasons. Studies at Vanderbilt
University- and studies in New York City and Chicago- have all produced similar results: performance pay
does not improve test scores (Parents across America). Also, performance pay doesnt attract most
teachers, many of whom care more about a supportive working environment, rather than a slightly
higher salary. Moreover, performance pay will only lead to more standardized testing and prep, rather
than creative, innovative assignments, because teachers will be focused on making sure students excel
on their exams, rather than ensuring that students receive a nurturing, pleasurable education.
Performance pays results in the neediest schools across the nation, which are already in need of
teachers, are most likely to be negative.

Although standardized testing is one of the leading debates in public education, not many
solutions have been proposed. Most alternatives involve various approaches to student portfolios,
which are collections of student work held by the teacher. One approach includes teachers examining
class portfolios at the end of the marking period and scoring the portfolios based on a nationwide
scoring guide. Other approaches involve students grading their own work, or classmates grading each
others work. Yet another approach calls for random sampling, where a number of portfolios are
selected from each classroom, and an independent group reviews the portfolios. This sort of approach
has been instituted in Britain, Australia, and in Vermont, which has created programs in which student
portfolios are used to assess teachers, as well as students (Peterson). There are number of advantages
to the portfolio approach: it involves work done over a long period of time, rather than a single test; it
encourages teachers and students to reflect on the work they do; and it motivates counties to invest
more in the preparation and progress of teachers. Many educators would prefer to stop testing

altogether, and many students would like to stop having their work evaluated so constantly, so some
alternative must be enacted; if not, students will simply continue taking unfair, grueling tests; teachers
will continue to be graded unfairly; and the government will continue spending millions, if not billions,
of dollars a year on standardized tests.

Standardized tests may seem like a good idea at first glance, but once more deeply investigated,
a number of concerns about them rise to the surface. These tests discriminate harshly against students
with learning disabilities and students learning English as a second language, because oftentimes, no
other options or accommodations are provided for them. Additionally, standardized tests have not
improved student achievement and instead take away from classroom learning time. Furthermore,
standardized tests are not accurate measurements of teacher abilities; the Association for Supervision
and Curriculum Development stated, Employing standardized achievement tests to measure teacher
skills, is like measuring temperature with a tablespoon. The choice is clear, like a multiple choice
question on a standardized test: the US Department of Education must, A: ban standardized exams,
rather than B: modify standardized exams and add accommodations, C: change the testing system to a
portfolio system, or D: ignore the subject and let it pass until the next generation.

Works Cited
Gale Cengage Learning. "Standardized Testing." Opposing Viewpoints in Context. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar.
2014.
<http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/ReferenceDetailsPage/ReferenceDetailsWindow?failOverType
=&query=&windowstate=normal&contentModules=&mode=view&displayGroupName=Referen
ce&limiter=&u=mcps_blair&currPage=&disableHighlighting=true&displayGroups=&sortBy=&sou
rce=&search_within_results=&p=OVIC&action=e&catId=GALE%7CAAA000028831&activityType=
&scanId=&documentId=GALE%7CPC3010999023>. This reliable source gave an extensive
summary of the history of standardized testing, especially detailed examinations of the main
laws that have been passed to encourage standardized testing in the United States.
Kohn, Alfie. "Standardized Testing and Its Victims." Education Week 27 Sept. 2000: n. pag. Alfiekohn.org.
Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/staiv.htm>. This article
considered who is most affected by standardized tests; why educators, researchers, and experts
are opposed to testing elementary school children; and why standardized testing is such a
problem in today's society.
McMahon, Claire. "ESL Students and State Testing." The Educators' Room. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.
<http://theeducatorsroom.com/2013/03/esl-students-and-state-testing/>. This article explores
the fairness of standardized tests without any sort of accommodations for students learning
English as a second language.
Moon, Tonya R., et al. "State Standardized Testing Programs: Their Effects on Teachers and Students."
University of Connecticut. N.p., 2007. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.
<http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/nrcgt/moonbrja.html>. This source summarized the 1983 report
A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, and mentioned the effect of
standardized tests on students, as well as teachers.

Peterson, Bob, and Monty Neill. "Alternatives to Standardized Tests." Rethinking Schools. N.p., n.d. Web.
31 Mar. 2014.
<http://www.rethinkingschools.org/restrict.asp?path=archive/13_03/assess.shtml>. This source
provided a few alternatives to standardized testing. It discussed these alternatives in depth and
talked about advantages to student portfolios, rather than exams.
Procon.org. "Standardized Tests." Procon.org. N.p., 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.
<http://standardizedtests.procon.org/#background>. This source gave a variety of perspectives
on the issue of standardized testing, and included the history of testing and the United States'
current standpoint on this ever-growing topic.
Stacker, Hal. "The Trouble With High-Stakes Testing." National Center for Learning Disabilities. N.p., n.d.
Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <http://www.ncld.org/students-disabilities/homework-study-skills/troublehigh-stakes-testing>. This article included an interview with Sid Wolinsky, the founder of
Disability Rights Advocates, and considered kids with learning disabilities and the discrimination
they face in taking standardized tests.
Trafton, Anne. "When Test Scores go Up." MIT News. N.p., 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.
<http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2013/even-when-test-scores-go-up-some-cognitive-abilities-dont1211>. This website summarized one investigation done by MIT researchers in which the
researchers tested whether or not standardized tests affect students' fluid intelligence
vs. crystallized intelligence.
"Why Teacher Evaluation Shouldnt Rest on Student Test Scores." Fair Test. N.p., 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 31
Mar. 2014. <http://www.fairtest.org/why-teacher-evaluation-shouldn%E2%80%99t-reststudent-test>. This source gave 9 important reasons why teachers shouldn't be evaluated on
their students' standardized test scores, as well as studies that have been done that correlate to
the topic.