You just stayed up half the night studying, you are sleepy, you are tired, and you are hungry because you skipped breakfast to get some extra study time in. You walk into the classroom to see all the desks lined up in rows. You sit down, your test paper is given to you, and in a matter of forty-five minutes to an hour, you spew out all the information you learned the night before. As you leave the classroom, you realize that everything you just wrote down on that test paper is on its way out of your head and a month later when you perhaps are asked a similar question that was on that test, you will have a very faint idea to the answer. Does this scenario seem familiar?
Standardized testing has caused this scenario to be the norm for many students. Since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2002 allowing more funds to go into the creation of standardized testing a lot has changed in the way students are taught. Students are no longer taught how to think critically; they are taught how to take an exam that will reflect well on the school they are attending. What has this led to you may ask? This has led to an increase in students that have depression, anxiety issues, and higher stress levels. Many politicians have run on platforms saying they will reform standardized testing but more progress is needed.
The Big Picture
One of the biggest criticisms of standardized testing is that instead of students actually learning different subjects they learn how to take a test instead. In the New York Times article, "Study Finds Standardized Tests May Hurt Education Efforts", Susan Chira reflects on a research study that could have potentially affected the presidential election of that year and quotes commentary from textbook companies that were negatively affected by the research study. The study concluded that standardized testing hurts the progress of math and science education as well as the minority students who are taking these standardized tests because standardized tests shape teachers to teach using a drilling method instead of a reasoning method necessary to excel in science and math. This led researchers to suggest that standardized testing should continue but with a more critical thinking and reasoning approach to it. The author then states that the three presidential candidates of the time: Clinton, Bush and Perot had all agreed that standardized test reform was a necessary step for America but none of them had specifically outlined a plan. The author hinted that the reason no specific outline plan was given was because to make standardized tests that measure reasoning skills it would cost $100 per student compared to the current $2 to $5 price. The study had also blamed textbooks for the drill approach teachers had, the author of the article had included comments many textbook companies released saying the study had focused on old textbooks and not the new versions that contained opportunities to learn using reasoning skills.
This is the only article I read that looked down on the standardized testing method but still wanted to keep it, just change the way it was formatted. It gave a chance to people who like standardized testing and people who do not, to compromise. The article also had a very realistic approach to the topic because it gave a plausible reason people do not want complete standardized testing reform: the cost. I found the article very helpful to my research study because apart from providing an alternative to the current standardized testing method it also further backed up the idea that articles I have read presented: Standardized testing changes the way teachers teach which negatively affects the students.
The second biggest criticism to standardized testing is that it influences a teacher's ability to teach, by limiting it to what is going to be on the test. In "Managing Standardized Testing in Today's Schools" Klein, Zevenbergen, and Brown look at standardized testing through the eyes of a teacher and how it affects his or her ability to teach using a research study. The authors surveyed the twenty teachers from three different elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school from Western New York. Then using a constant comparative method, they analyzed the data, giving a demographic of all the participants. Looking at the results of the surveys, there were more negative responses than there were positive. Beginning with the first question asking how standardized testing affects teaching, most teachers responded by saying that they have to focus on promoting and preparing for the test without actually teaching the test, which makes for tricky lesson plans. The second question asks the way standardized testing affects the learning process of students; most teachers responded by stating that if a student does not excel in a subject they have an intense distaste for it and that students tend to feel like they are not learning how to appreciate the knowledge the gain. The next question asks how the content taught reflects on the standardized testing; most teachers responded by stating that the content taught is what is on the test. The last question which had the most negative answers was about how standardized testing influenced self-views and education; many answered that they feel hopeless, have lower self-esteem, and a fear of tests. By the end of the research study, the authors recommended different ways to help teachers cope with standardized testing, such as workshops that say it is okay for teachers to teach strategy kind of education instead of drilling students for potential tests.
What was interesting about this research study is that it focused on standardized testing affecting teachers instead of students. For the most part, people sometimes turn a blind eye to how the education system affects teachers, but this article highlighted how teachers were not happy about standardized testing. This really helped in my research study because it gave me another point of view to look from when discussing standardized testing. It further went to show that standardized testing has more victims than just students.
Apart from the criticisms standardized testing gets, many people still do not understand why a method that has been used for so long is still standing. In "The Problem of Standardized testing in a Free and Pluralistic Society," the author Charles V. Willie bases his writing on the issue of standardized testing and why America, a society that heavily believes in freedom, accepts standardized testing as a way to show someone's competence. He concentrates on the effect of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) on the acceptance rate for undergraduate programs in colleges, looking as to how the ethnic background of a person can affect his or her performance on the SAT. He starts off by stating that different cultural conditioning leads to different intellectual strengths providing two case studies to further prove his point. The first took place in The School of Medicine at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, which changed its admissions procedure to ignore any test scores and focus on the students activities outside of the classroom. It was revealed at the end of the admission process that a higher percentage of minority students were admitted compared to the old process. The second case study took place at the University of California, where they looked at the previous years admitted students and reviewed them under a different standard that focused more on test scores. At the end, it was found that if the school would have focused more on the test score, there would be 9.8% fewer latinos and 8.8% fewer blacks in the current school population.
Throughout the article, Willie tries to point out that an entire nation can be blind to the repeatedly stated faults of standardized testing. Unlike most, he focused his attention on standardized testing at a much older stage of the educational system. He provides a well thought out explanation of how ethnic backgrounds play a role in tests that were standardized for white populations. In my study, Willie's article was able to provide yet another reason for why standardized testing is not the best way to see the competency of a student, as well as an example of an alternative to standardized testing.
A Closer Look
Taking a closer look at the negatives of standardized testing, we see heightened stress and anxiety, in kids as young as the second grade. In reading "Heightened Test Anxiety Among Young Children: Elementary School Students' Anxious Responses to High-Stakes Testing" the authors Segool, Carlson, Goforth, Embse, and Barterian submerged me in a research study similar to mine. The authors focus on the debated issue of standardized testing. The main point of the study was to discover the difference in anxiety levels of elementary school kids taking high-stake examinations and regular classroom examinations. The study also focused on the anxiety levels of the teachers giving these examinations and how they perceived their students during these examinations. Intended to represent a wide range of demographics in the study, the authors gathered a total of 617 children and their teachers, from 25 different classrooms, ranging from grades three through five, from three different elementary schools in a Midwestern state. Although, it was revealed at the end of the study that the demographics of the sample students was not as versatile as expected, but by the end of the article the researchers’ hypotheses were proven correct. The researchers concluded that students had higher levels of anxiety when taking high-stakes exams, and the teachers had been able to tell that their students had higher anxiety levels during these exams. The researchers also provided future research proposals to further enhance the knowledge of this field.
Throughout the article, the goal of the author is to provide a non-biased method of measuring whether or not high-stake assessments; for example, New York state exams give students higher anxiety levels. The beginning of the article provides information on other research studies and its faults while giving a solution to them that will be used in their research study. This source has revealed to be very helpful to anyone researching the topic of standardized testing by giving actual statistics, tables and graphs about their findings in clear and organized manner. In my case, it helps shape my argument that standardized testing has negative impacts on students compared to other methods of testing. Not to mention, the article provided a clear and well-written example of what a research study paper should look like.
Apart from heightened stress and anxiety we see a change in the minds of children who have been taken standardized tests their whole academic life. In "The Social Effects of Standardized Testing in American Elementary and Secondary Schools," Goslin and Glass explore the sociological effects of IQ testing on students and their future. They start off by analyzing America's increased interest in being able to measure a person's intelligence and achievement, giving background to their research study. Their researchers used students and their teachers from different elementary schools and high schools located in over four different states ranging from public schools, private schools, and parochial schools. They focused the surveys given to the subjects on four aspects, the first being the "The Nature of Intelligence and Accuracy of Tests" where it was concluded that most people believe that intelligence is the effect of learning but many also believed that standardized tests like IQ tests were accurate. The second aspect was "The Dissemination of Test Scores," which is how often teachers give test scores or an explanation of their academic standing to students. It was found that this happens a fair amount of times throughout the different types of school systems. The third aspect discusses the source that students used to evaluate their intelligence. It was found that most males rely heavily on their test scores while females rely heavily on their school performance. The last aspect was the relationship between self-estimates of intelligence, test scores and any aspirations for future education. It was found that students ballpark guess of their own intelligence is pretty close to their scores on standardized testing, which in turn has a positive effect on aspirations for future education.
What was unique about this article is that it did not focus on how reliable or valid standardized testing is but rather on the effect these tests have sociologically on today's students and their image of intelligence. Although it was an interesting and socially informative article, it was not really helpful besides providing an insight on the effects of one of the first standardized tests; the IQ test.
Standardized Testing in Action
In the video "Standardized Testing's Epic Fail," two SourceFed, a company that reports recent news, employees did a story about the FCAT. The FCAT is a Florida Standardized test that was under the spotlight in 2012. It was shown that out of all the students who took the FCAT's in 2011 eighty-one percent passed, compared to 2012's twenty-seven percent passing scores. Due to this "little" discretion in the scores, many people blamed new higher standards set up by the examination board and called for remedial programs for students that needed the extra push, which would come from taxpayers money. SourceFed looked further into the matter and saw that officials actually wanted to lower the cut-off for passing, but even then there were still a lot more passing grades the previous. The SourceFed reporters then changed their attention to the why, why are so many students failing standardized tests? They analyzed the situation and concluded that standardized tests do not do anything to help, anyone who wants to pass can just take a crash course on how to take an exam and never have the knowledge or the ability necessary to be considered educated. They end the video stating that the things at stake by failing a standardized exam are too high and instead there should be less testing and more teaching.
Although the video was short it was able to give a lot of information quickly, while also providing a comic relief that made the video more enjoyable to watch. It was able to provide a view on how the Department of Education of another state handles the matter or standardized testing. In this situation, I was able to see how standardized testing went horribly wrong resulting in a bunch of bureaucrats trying to cover up by lowering the standards.
A Step Forward
Constantly finding errors in standardized testing has resulted in movements that are fighting for a change. The Washington Post article, "The Rise of the Anti-Standardized Testing Movement", the authors Neill and Strauss discuss a growing movement that fights against standardized testing and is for education reform. So far in 2014, the movement has been very successful by removing, decreasing or delaying graduation exams in eight states. The authors examine the different tactics the movement uses, the obstacles they face, and their future goals. As of recent the movement: boycotts tests, holds protests, and uses the social media to get their message out to a bigger audience. One of the movement's biggest wins occurred in New York where twenty school districts refused to use their students as guinea pigs for next year's state-mandated exams. Like most movements, this one is also faced with many obstacles and oppositions such as threatening to fire teachers that did not administer these examinations. Some schools have adopted a "sit and stare" method for students who refuse to take standardized examinations. Neill goes on to expand on the topic of obstacles by focusing on lower income schools that have a predominant black and Latino population. In these kinds of school responses to refusing to take an exam are harsher because there is rarely any opposition from parents. The authors also take a look at the future of the movement who has hopes of creating better exams to test students. One of their biggest goals is to continue to exponentially expand to reach a bigger audience.
The authors of this article helped the anti-standardized testing movement because with this article they were spreading the message of the movement to its readers. Being one of my most recent articles that I have used in my research study, it has helped me further prove my point that throughout time standardized testing has been a problem and there has not been enough change to satisfy the public.
These movements apart from holding protests and opting their children out from taking these exams have created websites such as the website for The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. This is a website that focuses on the advocacy group, the different services that they offer their road to success and a myriad of other resources for anyone that wants to join the group. The website's homepage alone is filled with many options to further read about the accomplishments of the advocacy group as well as success stories they have had. Looking at the top tabs a person is given seven different options to further learn about the topic of standardized testing, they are Public School, College Admission, Newsletter, Fact Sheet, Act Now, News and Other Resources. Each of these tabs contains more drop down menu options with a multitude of things to read, such as the accountability of a high-stakes examination. Another great aspect of this website is it offers archives of past research done on the effects of standardized testing. The last tab, other resources, gives citations to where the website obtained its information from, which to a researcher could lead to more articles and information to read.
This website is spectacular for anyone who wants to help with the issue of standardized testing or even if you just want to learn more about the issue. One of the most interesting things that I found on the website is that it gives a list of over eight hundred and fifteen colleges that do not use the SAT or ACT as a factor during the admissions process. Apart from just giving the list, it also has a separate tab to explain exactly why these colleges chose to not use these standardized tests when evaluating a student. I found that very interesting since I had just gone through the college admissions process barely a year ago and I have other family members that are going through it now, I feel very inclined to share this website with them. This website was also extremely helpful because it gives a lot of valuable information in a very neatly organized package.