Standardized tests have become a way of life. It is not because they are effective in measuring what students can do or what they know – – as the late Ted Sizer (Founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools) put it, “Standardized tests are perhaps useful only to predict how well a student might do during his/her first semester in college. And that is about all. They do not measure what students KNOW.”
Yet standardized tests have become the primary measuring tool to determine how effective our schools are in teaching. If the scores are high – then the school must be doing its job; if not, well, the reverse is simply true. Accordingly, the criticism that “Teachers teach to the test . .” is, unfortunately, largely true.
The tests have “high stakes” for students, because they determine what their future educational opportunities might be.
There is a very good description of the pros and cons of standardized testing on the website ProCon.org. There you can learn about the history of standardized testing and detailed arguments for and against the practice.
Other forms of assessment, such as “Authentic Assessment,” are more effective in actually measuring what a student can do through observation of performance of tasks and measurement of such performance through the use of rubrics.
However, such means of assessment are harder to do and are far more expensive, even though software is being develop to address that issue.
Links to two websites that describe “Authentic Assessment” are as follows:
How to measure what a student actually knows and can do – and then compare those results against what other students know and can do around the nation and elsewhere is a monumental challenge which has not yet been met.
Until then, we will most likely have to rely on standardized testing – whatever the limitations might be.
Hopefully some improvement can be made in the future.