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Pros & Cons of Standardized Tests

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The debate over standardized testing can be heated. Some say that standardized testing is the best way to accurately evaluate students. Others believe that standardized testing provides skewed, inaccurate results.

There are many pros and cons of standardized testing. It’s important to cut through the debate and identify exactly what these tests are designed to do, and why.

What is standardized testing?

Standardized tests attempt to take an “across the board” measurement of a student’s educational ability. It is used to determine current averages and identify high and low performers so that each student can be treated accordingly. All test takers answer the same questions and are scored the same way. This makes it possible to compare individual students based on their performance. The testing sample can be as small as a classroom or as broad as the entire country.

Why standardized testing is important

Whether to identify struggling students who need help, or gifted children for possible advancement, standardized tests provide benchmarks of average performance so this is possible. These benchmarks also help decide the distribution of federal funds to schools across the country.

Standardized tests remain part of our education system, but are they really helping or hurting students?

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of standardized testing.

Pros of Standardized Testing

There are a number of reasons standardized testing is good:

  1. Standardized testing can provide benchmarks for parents and teachers. This allows parents and teachers to see how a student is doing compared to other students in his or her class, city, and country.
  2. Standardized tests can help identify problem areas in individual students, as well as schools and curriculums.
  3. It provides guidelines for curriculum. Standardized tests give teachers a structure of what needs to be taught. This helps keep classroom material consistent across the country.
  4. It prevents subjective grading. This helps to eliminate marking bias and ensures rationale behind each test question.
  5. It is a practical and accurate way of evaluating what a student does or does not know across areas like math, reading, and writing.

Cons of standardized testing

While this method of testing can provide value, there are also a number of reasons standardized testing is bad:

    1. It can create major stress. Students feel the pressure when it comes to performing well on tests. Test scores can affect student confidence. This can lead to students developing a negative attitude about their abilities and a dislike for school.
    2. Teachers may end up “teaching to the test” rather than giving students a deeper understanding of a subject. This also creates a classroom atmosphere that lacks creativity and can limit a student’s learning potential due to boredom.
    3. It evaluates student’s performance without considering external factors. Standardized tests don’t consider factors like test anxiety, home life, or the fact that some kids are extremely bright but just don’t test well.
    4. It only considers a single test performance upon evaluation. It does not consider how much a student has grown over the course of the year. This can be a disservice to teachers who worked to help their students grow, and students who put in their best effort to improve but performed poorly on one test.
    5. It creates a limited scope of learning and success. Standardized tests only measure specific areas like reading, writing, and math. They don’t provide a full picture of soft skills needed to learn, such as creativity, motivation, and cooperation.

How to prepare for standardized tests

Teaching students good study habits can help relieve test-taking stress and anxiety. This is one of the main factors cited by standardized testing critics as contributing to out-of-character scores.

If you are concerned about the performance of your child, there are ways to improve – the easiest of which is to hire a tutor.

A tutor can help students develop a test-taking strategy, manage their time, and improve critical thinking skills. Holding frequent tutoring sessions can help identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses. This will give him or her a better idea of how to best prepare for a test.

What’s your opinion on standardized testing? Are they helping or hindering? Should they stay or should they go?

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