Something to muse about

The teacher strike in Chicago is backed by many reasons. One of the main being unfair standardized test scores in relation to teacher assessment. Teachers are sick of it. Unless you are a robot, this method of teacher assessment is not your favorite. This is one of the biggest issues in public school reform today. In my opinion, I am not going into this career in order to teach my students how to pass a bubble test. Even assessment experts have said this is a bad idea…repeatedly!


“Much of the time and money devoted to testing is misspent. . . . Test scores provide little useful information to help improve instruction and students’ learning. In pursuit of higher test scores, the curriculum has been narrowed and “dumbed-down” to match the tests. Children learn less.”—FairTest


– The primary purpose of these tests is to rank-order students, teachers, and their schools. To guarantee that some will be labeled as successes and others as failures, with most considered mediocre. This is the main function of norm-referenced tests. When the distribution of test scores no longer resembles the bell curve, the tests are renormed-typically about every seven years. Criterion-referenced tests are also used to sort and label students, though they are not particularly designed to do so.

– Standardized tests (especially multiple-choic) give a false impression of objectivity, equal opportunity and fairness. This was one of my pitfalls all through my education. I’m horrible at multiple-choice tests! “The only objective part of standardized tests is the scoring, which is done by machine. What items to include on the test, the wording and content of the items, what will count as correct answers, how the test is administered, and the uses of the results are all decisions made by subjective human beings” (FairTest).

– Standardized tests are biased in favor of those whose culture and upbringing most closely resemble that of the test makers. Typically, white middle-class males who live in metropolitan areas. Such tests are typically biased against females, children of color, children from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and children who live in rural areas. Efforts to eliminate such bias have only partially succeeded. So much for diverse, successful classrooms!

–  Standardized tests tend to narrow the curriculum to what will be tested, hence my “teaching to take a bubble test” rant. Because teachers are pressured by the demand to produce higher test scores, they often spend a lot of time having students practice items like those that will be on the tests. These tests not only determine all too much of the curriculum but may become the curriculum. Such heavy emphasis on testing may crowd other learning activities out of the curriculum. Thus, standardized tests tend to discourage effective teaching and engaged, meaningful learning.

–  For many young children, standardized tests result in “death at an early age” – or at least to a life sentence doing remedial practice and drill in special classes or lower “ability” groups or tracks. That is, scores on such tests result in many children’s being given an inferior education that virtually ensures that they will not learn what their more advantaged peers will learn. Because so-called readiness tests are used to assign children to different classes and “ability” groups, they and other screening tests condemn many children to relative failure from the primary years onward.

– Standardized tests tend to focus attention on what students do not know and cannot do, in situations unlike daily life. At the same time, they do not tell us what we really need to know in order to foster individual students’ learning.


Therefore, I say, “away with standardized tests!”


About Emma Steward

Coloradoan, yogi, future educator, vegetarian, nature lover, fine wine connoisseur of fine wines (Five truths and lie, or is it two...)

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