Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Role of Standardized Testing

How do these tests benefit students? Are they necessary? 

Teachers need tests to determine if students have learned what was expected of them and if it is the right time to move on to the next objective. 

The data gathered from tests identifies areas of difficulty, which can help teachers adjust instruction for subsequent cohorts of students. Tests show teachers, which students are achieving, and the instructional strategies that are effective. Results from standardized tests can help inform educational policy, school improvement, or instructional practice and develop an action plan.

There are socioeconomic issues such as the inequalities in school funding between wealthy and impoverished areas, which can have an impact on student achievement and test results. 

Standardized tests are just one of the many markers of progress, and alternative assessments such as observations, performance tasks, or portfolios should also be used by teachers. Results from alternative assessments can be more effective in communicating outcomes. 

Standardized tests can be used to observe changes in student test scores over a year in order to inform the public of an improvement or decline in student achievement.  The standardized tests can also be used as a tool to compare certain schools within the same district because they are similar in socioeconomics. 

However, one thing our state’s elected leaders can’t continue to do is place such an emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.  Instead, we must focus our energy on empowering all students to care and understand the importance of obtaining a quality education. 

The goal of using data produced by standardized tests is to extract a correlation between the knowledge of the student and the effectiveness of the teacher. 

However, there is not a reliable learning assessment resource available to measure the different impact of each. 
Besides the effectiveness of the teacher, the knowledge of the student is also affected by social factors such as student apathy, peer relations, poverty, and parent involvement. 

Standardized tests should not be on the cutting edge of education because it promotes teaching to the test, which can be counterproductive and dehumanizing.

Tests cannot be the only assessment used to help with the evaluating, rating, and ranking of schools, teachers, and school systems. 
The toxic environment of standardized testing is causing teachers to consider leaving the profession because of the increase in pressure, wasted time, and negative impact on the classroom. Standardized testing has eroded student learning time, while doing nothing to shed light on the achievement gaps between schools. 

In 2002, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) doubled the number of standardized tests. Unfortunately, standardized testing does not solve our problems and has not increased student achievement (National Academy of Sciences, 2011). 

According to the 2015 Phi Delta Kappa Gallup Poll, the public is opposed to the emphasis on standardized testing. Alternative assessments should be used to provide a more accurate reflection of student achievement.  

There are many factors that impact student achievement in schools, including measures like student attendance, access to advanced courses, and school discipline policies. These all need to be considered.  

According to Diane Ravitch, Education Historian and Policy Analyst, "Sometimes the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine on standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds". Thank you Michigan Department of Education for listening to teachers demanding less time testing students and more time for learning. 

Versions of this op-ed were published in the Oakland Press and Macomb Daily Open Opinion Forum, and Michigan Education Association Members Speak Blog.