Top Pro & Con Arguments
Standardized tests offer an objective measurement of education and a good metric to gauge areas for improvement.
Teachers’ grading practices are naturally uneven and subjective. An A in one class may be a C in another. Teachers also have conscious and unconscious biases for a favorite student or against a rowdy student, for example.Standardized tests offer students across the country a unified measure of their knowledge.
Aaron Churchill, Ohio Research Director for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, stated, “At their core, standardized exams are designed to be objective measures. They assess students based on a similar set of questions, are given under nearly identical testing conditions, and are graded by a machine or blind reviewer. They are intended to provide an accurate, unfiltered measure of what a student knows.”
Frequently states or local jurisdictions employ psychometricians to ensure tests are fair across populations of students. Mark Moulon, PhD, Chief Executive Officer at Pythias Consulting and psychometrician, offered an example: “If you find that your question on skateboarding is one that boys find to be an easy question, but girls find to be a hard question, that’ll pop up as a statistic. Differential item functioning will flag that question as problematic.”
Moulon continued, explaining, “What’s cool about psychometrics is that it will flag stuff that a human would never be able to notice. I remember a science test that had been developed in California and it asked about earthquakes. But the question was later used in a test that was administered in New England. When you try to analyze the New England kids with the California kids, you would get a differential item functioning flag because the California kids were all over the subject of earthquakes, and the kids in Vermont had no idea about earthquakes.”
With problematic questions removed, or adapted for different populations of students, standardized tests offer the best objective measure of what students have learned. Taking that information, schools can determine areas for improvement. As Bryan Nixon, former Head of School at private school Whitby, noted, “When we receive standardized test data at Whitby, we use it to evaluate the effectiveness of our education program. We view standardized testing data as not only another set of data points to assess student performance, but also as a means to help us reflect on our curriculum. When we look at Whitby’s assessment data, we can compare our students to their peers at other schools to determine what we’re doing well within our educational continuum and where we need to invest more time and resources.”Read More