Educational System

Published 13 Jan 2017


Standardized testing dates back to 2200 BC in China where it was used to judge the knowledge of the people coming into civil services. Standardized testing did not only confine itself to China, but it spread to Europe and US as well. Standardized testing which is very common here is not an effective method, and therefore it should be discontinued. Standardized tests give wealthy students an edge over less affluent students. Various test centers for SAT, GRE prepare millions of students all around the world for standardized tests.

Secondly, precious time, resources and energy of the schools are wasted to prepare the students for standardized tests. Thirdly, standardized testing paves the way for tougher standards on some educational institutions who produce low scores which can make their staff less motivated and cause them to intentionally increase the scores of their students. Lastly and most importantly standardized tests cannot handle pretty very well it is biased against people belonging to minorities and from other cultures whose native language is not English.

Standardized testing is not something new in fact it has a very long and rich history. It was first used in China in around 2200 BC. People who were interested in civil service, an occupation considered highly respectable, had to clear a standard test. The exams mostly tested rote memorization of received wisdom. However, in 1905 standardized tests were disbanded because of a reform movement. Standardized testing was not only confined to China, but Standardized testing was also present in Europe during the Middle Ages. Many universities used tests as part of their entrance exams, in addition to interviews and other measures.By 1803, the use of written exams was widespread throughout Europe because of problems with the oral exam system. In the United States, standardized tests appeared in the mid 19th century.

Standardized testing has become very common in the US because of it can be easily implemented and administered to judge the acquired ‘knowledge.’ Standardized testing itself is not bad, but the way it is used makes it ineffective and unethical. It is used mostly as a sole determining factor for promotions, educational advancement, graduation, admission, etc. which makes it futile and ineffective. The reasons which account for this factor are as follows

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Another draw back of standardized testing is that it influences teaching or the instructors. (Golan, 3) Before giving a test, the teachers have a general idea of what they will give in the test and therefore they intentionally or intentionally focus on the ‘important’ areas and leave out the other chapters, sections, etc. which are not important from the point of view of exams. These left out chapters might not be important from the examination point of view, but they might be very important for a child’s professional development. Secondly, in most of the cases instructors who teach the students also administer and grade the students who might also have a negative impact on the teachers. Teachers tend to get involved in a self-fulfilling prophesy where they grade the students who they consider above average with good grades and tend to give lower grades to students whom they perceive as below average students. (Hoffman, 45).

Scores are influenced by various factors

The scores on standardized tests are not an accurate measure of intelligence or knowledge since they are influenced by various other factors. The three most important ones are what kids learn in school, what kids learn outside of school, and innate intelligence (Popham, 12). Innate intelligence is influenced by various factors some of them are biological and environmental.

Experiments done on mice have demonstrated superior ability in learning and memory in various behavioral tasks, and there exists variation in intelligence because of genetic differences. (Dube,43). Similarly, there exist differences in the intelligence in human beings as well. This shows that some individuals may have an edge or advantage over other individuals which makes the whole procedure of applying standardized tests on every one flawed. Moreover, innate intelligence is also influenced by environmental factors. Environmental factor includes a child’s upbringing, his/her culture, the role of parents, etc.

In 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress found that the combination of four such variables (number of parents living at home, parents’ educational background, type of community, and poverty rate) accounted for a whopping 89 percent of the differences in state scores. This study shows how biased and unfair standardized tests are for some disadvantage students. Moreover, students from different culture have a different way of analyzing things. Since standardized tests are not cultured specific, the results they might give may be misleading.

Standardized tests give wealthy students and edge over less affluent students

Since these days standardized tests have become a sole determining factor for promotion, admission, etc. students all around the world pay huge amounts of money as to prepare for the tests and get good grades or a decent GPA. Various test centers for SAT, GRE prepare millions of students all around the world for standardized tests.

Moreover, various online resource centers have opened which provide test preparation material to students while charging hefty amounts from them. This trend is a serious concern for the critics of standardized tests. The new trend of test preparation gives an edge to students of wealthy parents, who have enough resources to prepare their children, over children of less affluent families. (Johnson, 1) Thus children or students belonging to less affluent families have to face a ‘transparent’ barrier where they cannot compete with students of well-off families only because of fewer resources or money.

Precious time, resources and energy are wasted because of standardized tests.

Schools, to prepare the students for standardized tests, are incurring huge social costs and are wasting their precious time, resources and energy. The schools in order to raise the tests scores are giving less importance or even eliminating programs in the arts, recess for young children, electives, extracurricular activities, class meetings, activities intended to promote social and moral learning, and discussions about current events (since that material will not appear on the test), (Kohn,2)

Standardized testing paves the way for tougher standards on some educational institutions

Standardized testing serves as a guiding tool for the administration to make decisions regarding funding, regulations, etc. of different schools. Therefore, teachers intentionally over rate their students to get a greater overall aggregate of marks which will increase the ranking of their schools. However, in some cases, this has created disenchantment for testing in the minds of professional and sincere educators. The reason is professional teachers do not like to teach in places where the main focus is on high scores or in which they will be pressured to produce such scores.

Nervousness/ illness can influence the grade

Supporters of standardized testing say that standardized tests are a good way of measuring a students ability, knowledge and intelligence.However, a score on a standardized test might not reflect the intelligence or the acquired knowledge of the student because there are various factors that might influence the grade of a child. For example, a child might become sick or unwell on the day of the examination, or he might become nervous (Watson, 3) because of the exam which may lower the grade of the child. In such cases, the standardized test does not measure the knowledge or the intelligence of the student, but it measures the ability of the student to apply that knowledge in a stressful situation.

Scores have a negative impact on the performance of the student

One of the most devastating effects of high-stakes standardized testing is the emotional effects on students and teachers. A student who does poorly on a test and achieves a low score becomes disillusioned and less motivated which makes causes them to make less effort to learn. Unfortunately, this starts a downward spiral that is very hard to break out of. (Haladyna, 160) Once they perform poorly on a test, they have no motivation to work hard for the next one and do poorly on that one once again, which in turn evokes more negative emotion towards learning.

Standardized tests cannot handle pretty

One of the biggest criticisms of standardized tests is that they cannot handle persity. Most of many of today’s tests are written so that only white, middle-class, English-speaking Americans can succeed which makes it very unfair for the other minorities. Moreover, standardized testing is also very biased against disabled people. Disabilities include physical disabilities, language delays, ADHD, visual impairments and mental retardation. Such people require special assistance, a test with a low level of difficulty and a test made specifically for them which is not the case with standardized tests.

Work cited

  • Alfie Kohn, Standardized Testing, and Its Victims, Education week, 2000
  • Hoffmen, Schema, Psychology in action,2000
  • Joan L. Herman 1 Shari Golan, The Effects of Standardized Testing on Teaching and Schools, Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 1998
  • Popham, W.J Why Standardized Test Scores Don’t Measure Educational Quality. Educational Leadership, 1999
  • Peg Watson, Pros & Cons of Standardized Testing and Portfolio Evaluations, VaHomeschoolers’ High Quality Newsletter, 2004
  • Tang YP, Shimizu E, Dube GR, Genetic enhancement of learning and memory in mice, Nature 401, 1999
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