Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing in All Schools

Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing in All Schools


The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was enforced during former president Bush’s tenure. It outlined extensive testing requirements and made it mandatory for students to take standardized tests in reading, math and science. The Act was meant to provide tougher standards that would push students to work hard and prevent those who did not meet the requirements of a particular grade from advancing to the next. Since its enactment, there has been a lot of debate on whether these tests are fair and whether they improve the education level for students.

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Arguments in favor of standardized testing


  1. Accountability

The greatest benefit of standardized testing is that schools and teachers become responsible for students learning what they are required to know in order to pass these tests. The scores are made public, so schools or teachers who do not meet the required standard may come under serious scrutiny. This could lead to job losses for teachers and closing down schools that are not up to par.


  1. Objective testing

Standard tests offer a reliable and objective measure of student achievement. Policy makers do not have to rely on tests scored by individual schools and teachers with a vested interest in producing favorable results. All students are required to learn a minimum amount of material, eliminating the problem of schools or teachers relaxing their standards.


  1. Fair comparison

Without standardized tests, it would be impossible to compare students located in different schools, districts and states. Accurate comparison between sub-groups (ethnicity, socioeconomic status, special needs) can also be drawn so that schools can develop programs and services directed to these sub-groups.


  1. Establishing an instructional framework

Standardized testing makes it possible to set an instructional framework so teachers know what and when something should be taught. This eliminates that possibility of a sixth grade teacher in one region teaching the same thing as a third grade teacher in another region. This also ensures that students who move from one school district to another are not behind or ahead in their new schools.


Arguments against standardized testing


  1. Teach to the tests

Many teachers only teach to the test, hindering a student’s overall learning potential. Teachers are under a lot of pressure to get their students prepared for these exams that they neglect to teach skills that may not be covered in the tests. In addition, the pressure felt by teachers and students fosters negative feelings towards school and learning in general.


  1. Limited testing

Standardized tests only measure a small portion of what makes education meaningful. They cannot measure aspects that have to do with creativity, critical thinking, motivation, resilience, persistence, self-awareness, civic-mindedness, resourcefulness and leadership among others. In addition, school districts often reduce the time spent on social studies and arts to focus on reading and math.


  1. Student’s growth disregarded

Standardized testing only focuses on whether a student was proficient at the time of testing rather than his or her overall growth over the course of the year. This is a disservice to students that have improved over the course of the year but failed to perform well in a single test.


The arguments supporting and those against standardized testing are valid. The solution mainly lies in striking a balance in the way that standardized testing is used by taking into account its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, while standardized tests can be helpful in assessing the performance of different schools, they should only be used in a limited capacity. Other assessments that take into consideration the weaknesses of standardized tests can also be used to determine whether students are progressing or not.



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