Top Pro & Con Arguments


Standardized tests only determine which students are good at taking tests, offer no meaningful measure of progress, and have not improved student performance.

Standardized test scores are easily influenced by outside factors: stress, hunger, tiredness, and prior teacher or parent comments about the difficulty of the test, among other factors. In short, the tests only show which students are best at preparing for and taking the tests, not what knowledge students might exhibit if their stomachs weren’t empty. [68] [69] External stereotypes also play a part in scores: “research indicates that being targeted by well-known stereotypes (‘blacks are unintelligent,’ ‘Latinos perform poorly on tests,’ ‘girls can’t do math’ and so on) can be threatening to students in profound ways, a predicament they call ‘stereotype threat.'” [70]

Students are tested on grade-appropriate material, but they are not re-tested to determine if they have learned information they tested poorly on the year before. [69] Instead, as Steve Martinez, EdD, Superintendent of Twin Rivers Unified in California, and Rick Miller, Executive Director of CORE Districts, note, each “state currently reports yearly change, by comparing the scores of this year’s students against the scores of last year’s students who were in the same grade. Even though educators, parents and policymakers might think change signals impact, it says much more about the change in who the students are because it is not measuring the growth of the same student from one year to the next.” [71]

Further, because each state develops its own tests, standardized tests are not necessarily comparable across state lines, leaving nationwide statistics shaky at best. [72]

Brandon Busteed, Executive Director, Education & Workforce Development at the time of the quote, stated, “Despite an increased focus on standardized testing, U.S. results in international comparisons show we have made no significant improvement over the past 20 years, according to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The U.S. most recently ranked 23rd, 39th and 25th in reading, math and science, respectively. The last time Americans celebrated being 23rd, 39th and 25th in anything was … well, never. Our focus on standardized testing hasn’t helped us improve our results!” [73]

Busteed asks, “What if our overreliance on standardized testing has actually inhibited our ability to help students succeed and achieve in a multitude of other dimensions? For example, how effective are schools at identifying and educating students with high entrepreneurial talent? Or at training students to apply creative thinking to solve messy and complex issues with no easy answers?” [73]

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