Why standardized testing is bad?

+79 votes
asked Apr 30, 2015 in Education by Fermin11S593 (280 points)
I’ve heard it said that standardized testing is ineffective and can’t accurately measure a person’s level of intelligence. What else is wrong with standardized testing? Are there other reasons people don’t like it?

1 Answer

+28 votes
answered Sep 22, 2015 by ManualBerkma (600 points)

Here is a list of reasons why standardized testing is completely worthless:

  1. Standardized tests don’t offer any feedback on how to improve. The students and teachers receive the results months after the test, and nobody is given any instruction on how to improve the test scores.
  2. Standardized tests do not account for creativity. A student who creates a creative answer in the margins, doesn’t realize that the test is graded by machine and no human will ever see it. A creative response that doesn’t meet the standards and format is an incorrect response.
  3. Standardized tests overlook diversity. There are a wide variety of students who take standardized tests. They come from diverse cultural backgrounds: have varying levels of fluency in the English language, differences in thinking and learning styles, different family backgrounds and different experiences. But standardized tests treat all students as if they were identical, as well as identical to the group of students that took the test years ago, and to which the test has been “normed”. The “norm group” acts as a control group to which upcoming test-takers are compared.
  4. Students of higher socio-economic class have an advantage when taking a standardized test. Test companies are a multi-billion dollar industry that not only manufacture the tests, but also offer programs and courses to train for the test. Some students even hire tutors to help them prepare for the test. However, students who lack the money to hire such a tutor, or attend school in a low socio-economic area that receives less funding are not getting the same preparation for the test as those with more money and resources available.
  5. Because of the great importance placed on standardized test results, teachers are spending a lot of time “teaching to the test”. Information that is interesting, useful, or otherwise helps the student understand the world, but doesn’t get covered by the standardized test often goes ignored because there’s no incentive for the teacher to cover it. Instead, a great deal of class time is spent either taking the tests or preparing for them, and the students miss out on the opportunity to learn many important things. For instance, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law only tests for math, reading, and science. This means that social studies, history, art, and other subjects are neglected.
  6. Standardized tests create stress for the students. Some children handle the stress well, but others do not.  So once again, some students have an advantage. Research indicates that high levels of stress are physically and psychologically damaging. When stress becomes overwhelming, the brain shifts into a “fight or flight” mode, where the higher-level thinking processes needed to respond correctly to a standardized test are completely inaccessible.
  7. Standardized testing reduces the richness of learning and human experience to a set of numbers. A student could have a deep knowledge of a particular subject and still score low on their test. That student may be better able to demonstrate their knowledge by drawing a picture or leading a group discussion.
  8. Standardized tests were developed by unexceptional minds. Lewis Terman, one of the pioneers of standardized testing, was a noted racist. Another of the pioneers, Edward Thorndike, was a specialist in rats and mazes. Albert Einstein failed a number of standardized tests, but never created any. Usually, pedantic researchers with PhDs in educational testing or psychology are the people who create standardized tests.
  9. It is assumed that a student who performs well on a standardized test has a good understanding of the material. However, this may just be giving the parents and teachers a false sense of security. Some students are inherently skillful when it comes to taking standardized tests, while others are not. Students who do well simply may have learned the formulas or tricks required to perform well on the test. A group of Harvard alumni were asked why it’s cold in the winter and warm in the summer, and most responded incorrectly. They were good test-takers but didn’t understand the essential principles that needed a deeper comprehension. Check out the book The Disciplined Mind: Beyond Facts and Standardized Tests; the K-12 Education that Every Child Deserves, written by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, who was named one of the 100 greatest public intellectuals in the world.
  10. Standardized tests do not exist for educational purposes. Rather, they are in place for political, administrative, and financial reasons. Test companies make billions of dollars, and politicians promise better test results to get elected. Administrators receive funding and avoid penalties by increasing test scores. Everyone profits except for the students. For them, standardized testing is useless and even harmful.

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commented Sep 23, 2015 by CortezKibble (180 points)
Good summary
commented Sep 23, 2015 by BrookeWitzel (120 points)
Thanks for your collection on why standardized testing is bad
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