It’s Test Time: How Effective is Standardized Testing?

It’s Test Time: How Effective is Standardized Testing?

Most studies show that standardized tests are not valid or reliable measures of learning, they’re not helpful to teachers, and they are biased.

We are in the midst of standardized testing and it is a stressful time for students and teachers. High-stakes testing is a controversial topic in education. Everyone has an opinion about what’s wrong with them. But, the reality is, testing is the basis for how the American educational system assesses student learning. And that’s not going to change anytime soon.


What Does Testing Do Well?

Standardized tests are norm-referenced. They supply data about how a student performed in comparison to a hypothetical average student. This data allows educators to make a wide range of interpretations about a student’s’ knowledge and skills.


Where Does Testing Go Wrong?

The tests themselves are not so much the problem. But what they’re used for is. Norm-referenced tests shouldn’t evaluate the quality of education. Again, look at what they’re designed to do– compare students to a national average. And remember, what’s being compared is the student’s performance on one test, given on one day, at some random point during a school year. A test score is not a record of what a child knows. So, using a standardized test to determine a child’s progress and academic future is just unfair.

Most studies show that standardized tests are not valid or reliable measures of learning, they’re not helpful to teachers, and they are biased. Ultimately, they don’t consistently test what they’re supposed to test. And, what they do test includes linguistic and cultural knowledge that is not common to every child.


The Future of Testing

Even testing services like ETS believe that the way we test today will not be the way we test in the future. Andreas Oranje of ETS recently said, “Future tests will pick up where multiple choice tests fall flat. They’ll include deep thinking, authentic application, and creative problem-solving.”

The future of testing also may be that it’s not so high-stakes. In fact, nearly 1,000 college have done away with test-score reporting as part of the application process. Higher ed already recognizes that children are a sum of their learning experiences.


What Happens Now?

Until new shifts in assessment reach all levels of schooling, teachers and students still have to contend with testing. So what’s a teacher to do in the meantime? Instead of teaching to the test, educators can focus on keeping students engaged with learning while making sure they master the material they need to excel. And, in fact, that’s been our focus at EduSmart for more than 10 years now.

Our years of supporting teachers have taught us one thing: teachers are hungry for ready-to-use lesson components that help them cover the essentials quickly and easily, regardless of their own level of science and math expertise. Our digital generation of learners responds to interactive communication - like games, videos and labs - so why not leverage the tools that we know our students engage with daily?

That’s the kind of authentic learning and assessment students will need to become familiar with as testing strategies shift. The type of thinking required by our Claims Evidence Reasoning prompts is a far cry from the thinking required by simple multiple choice questions. And because all of these rich content materials are available out-of-the box, teachers are freed up to create deep learning opportunities that pursue critical thinking and creative problem solving.