Standardized testing has recently received more headline space with the emergence of a widespread “opt-out movement,” in which parents are opting to keep their children from taking standardized tests. The debate on standardized testing is not a new one, however. Standardized testing has been a part of the American education system since the mid-1800s, but their use increased in 2002 after the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act. Has this additional testing actually advanced education or is there some validity to many parents’ concerns surrounding the practice of standardized testing?
One claim that proponents of standardized testing make is that tests are the only way to fairly and objectively measure students’ academic abilities. While it may be objective and seem fair, some students are naturally better test-takers than others. There are six different types of learners: visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, analytical and global. Out of these six groups, only the visual and analytical learners are able naturally to look at a standardized test with lots of words, graphics and clear objectives, and extract the information from it.
While many students are taught how to become visual and analytical learners, teachers prefer to use an auditory teaching style. Lectures and larger discussions are great for auditory and global learners, but in a standardized testing room there is only silence and the spinning thoughts inside a test-taker’s head. Tactile learners, who need physical learning tools, have nothing but a pencil and booklet to help them remember what they have learned. Kinesthetic learners become restless in their seats when they are forced to sit in one place for an extended amount of time. If there is more than one type of learner, shouldn’t there be more than one type of standardized test?
Another argument proponents make is that stricter standards and increased testing are better in terms of preparing students for college. In January 1998, Public Agenda found that 66 percent of college professors said “elementary and high schools expect students to learn too little.” By March 2002, after a surge in testing and the passing of NCLB, that figure dropped to 47 percent, “in direct support of higher expectations, strengthened standards and better tests.”
To be honest, secondary education is not based on testing alone. At many institutions, students may take only two tests during one course – a midterm and a final. College preparation courses, such as classes at community colleges or Advanced Placement AP classes in high school, may do a better job at preparing students for classes at the university level than a standardized test does. The AP tests themselves are not what prepare students for college, but the intensity, curriculum and larger workloads are what challenge and assess a student’s ability to perform at an accelerated college level.
While these tests play a role in determining a somewhat holistic view of a state or country’s educational system, there are pitfalls to the current system that make them more of an expensive, bureaucratic hassle than a helpful tool.
Maggie Shaver ’17 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Centennial, Colo. She majors in English and sociology/anthropology with a management concentration.
Graphic Credit: LOUISA CARROLL/MANITOU MESSENGER