Ten Reasons to Actively Oppose Standardized State Tests in Schools

Congratulations, me; that is the longest title I have ever written for a blog post. It is exactly ten words long, which is fitting because I now present ten crazy things about standardized tests in primary and secondary schools. This list should be enough to spark a revolution. But if you’re still not sure you want to dedicate your life to changing the system, please refer to the links at the end for further incitement.

  1. Standardized tests assume that children come standardized, which they don’t. Not only is there a huge developmental span between children in the same grade, but it’s normal and healthy for there to be a span. They aren’t factory widgets, folks, they are developing humans.
  2. Teachers and administrators hate (if they are honest with themselves) the tests. They know every one of the points in this list. If professional educators don’t like the tests, perhaps they aren’t the best tools for educators to use.
  3. These tests cause a great deal of anxiety in children. It is abusive to force kids to sit for hours filling in the little oval bubbles in high-stakes tests. Often, children are not allowed to go to the bathroom while testing. The atmosphere of the classroom becomes oppressive, which is contrary to best teaching practices.
  4. These tests cause anxiety in teachers, party because they know they are judged by their students’ scores, and partially because the tests interfere with teaching. This is an important point: State tests take about a week out of the time teachers have to deliver the curriculum. More tests means less learning.
  5. Tests are causing teachers to teach superficially. Instead of the critical thinking skills that come from investigating something in depth, children are taught to quickly answer questions phrased in test language.
  6. These tests are not good assessments of student learning. They are, by their nature, unauthentic. Take math for example. Do we teach math so that kids will know math, or do we teach math so that kids will have math as a tool to solve problems in life? If the latter is the goal, students should be tested by seeing if they can comparison shop, not if they can compare the angles of geometric shapes.
  7. State tests send a bad message to our children. We should be modeling integrity, standing up for our beliefs. Instead, we are presenting children with the following subtext: We don’t believe in what we are doing but the people in charge tell us to do it so we will follow along like sheep. (I apologize to any sheep who may be reading this.)
  8. The time frame is wack. It takes so long to get the results that these tests can’t be used to inform teaching in the moment. They can only be used to help the next crop of kids do better on tests.
  9. The tests are at variance with Special Education law (IDEA) by forcing students with disabilities to take the same tests as other students.
  10. More and more, standardized tests scores are used to judge and even force teachers out of the profession. Since the tests don’t measure student learning, we may be losing teachers who are good for our kids.

My fear is that our schools are being transformed into testing factories. We will have generation of kids who are really great at taking standardized tests. This won’t help them in life, unless they choose “Test Tutor” as a profession. Would you like more arguments against standardized testing? Visit Alphie’s Kohn’s article, and this article from The National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

For more thoughts on educational philosophy, click the daisy:

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19 Responses to Ten Reasons to Actively Oppose Standardized State Tests in Schools

  1. Topher says:

    I think #1 is the strongest argument against using standardized tests. A lot of the other points could, if someone cared to, be taken into consideration and change – time-frame, breaking tests up, etc.

    The ideal would be to use tests as one way of measuring student learning, and then doing something with that information that informs teaching. Rather than, you know, telling students and teachers how poorly (or greatly) they’re doing. NYC Educator had a great post on that.

    Doesn’t IDEA require that the tests be modified in some way so that all students are not taking the same test?

    I have looked at a few standardized tests from past years, and the bar is pretty low, but…I actually hate the tests mostly because even the ones I’ve taken for the state for certification are awfully written. I mean, the questions and answers don’t make sense, have misspellings, or are flat out wrong!

    My best friend has a terrible time with standardized tests. Super smart, could orally reply to every question well, but filling in bubbles makes her anxious and confused and doesn’t really allow for her to show off what she knows.

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    • EricIndiana says:

      I’ve also seen test questions that are ambiguous, and I’ve disagreed with the “correct” answers.

      Teachers are required to accommodate children with special needs, but that mostly takes the form of testing them in isolation, reading the questions out loud to them, and giving some students more time to complete the test. The tests can’t be altered in my experience.

      As far as using the tests to inform teaching, I’ve been at a school where the faculty examine the scores to see where they need to adjust teaching. But they are generally looking at ways to adjust teaching so that next year’s kids will score better, not so that children will have deeper, more meaningful learning.

      Of course, as Robin mentions, below, we have lots of other tests – there are district tests, and tests that come with packaged curricula, and tests that individual teachers create. The last two types can be useful formative tests, to see how the unit is going and whether the teacher needs to make adjustments. I suppose the district tests can be made to measure whether children are getting concepts like, “number sense,” and those results can lead to district-wide conversations about the needs of the children and how to serve them better.

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  2. Robin Nelson Wildman says:

    One week of testing? Try one MONTH. 5th graders in RI take 3 tests. Week 1: Reading/ 3 test sessions that take some kids one and a half HOURS. Week 2: Math, same as week 1, Week 3 Writing, again, same as week 1. Not to mention the benchmark tests that the district makes us do, as well as weekly testing for Math skills that we need to log into the computer data base, and if the kid doesn’t meet that benchmark oh boy. More testing for that poor child.
    Teachers freak and spend the month before the test practicing. Not me.
    We were just told that a NEW and IMPROVED test is coming out so that, oh joy, the students will get to take this QUARTERLY.
    What has happened? My motto is BBTF (Bring Back The Fun). YOu know me Eric, always the rebel. Nonviolence training trumps ALL!!!

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  3. ilene says:

    all this, and the fact that these tests are notoriously biased in favor of white, middle class, English speaking, US raised kids. There was a hubbub in Oakland over a question that asked showed a picture of a “casserole” which was to be identified from a list of words. Not sure how many of the many immigrant kids in Oakland would be able to identify that. Not even sure if my own english speaking, US raised kids could.

    Add to that the fact that the test results are in no way, shape, or form used to guide or inform teaching and learning for anyone.

    Delaine Easton has some good arguments you might want to look at.

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  4. Topher says:

    That’s a good point Ilene.

    And they have so many district tests here in NYC. But the good news is that a lot of teachers I know have access to results, and they do put them to use. Not every teacher does, but even when you take into account the faults of the tests and whatever stuff the kids bring to them (bad days, carelessness because they don’t *really* matter), it can be helpful – especially if there are broad trends.

    A week of testing sounds like murder.

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  5. Fred says:

    Argument 5 is really good. This is THE reason standardized tests should be dropped. 10 is a good point, and you’re getting at something with argument 6 and 9 (but I think you’re confused about what the actual point you’re trying to make is and that you need to put more thought into whatever it is that you’re trying to say). The rest of your arguments are fallacious and should be dropped. They’re bad arguments and hurt the cause when we defend them.

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    • EricIndiana says:

      Thank you for your feedback. Could you be specific about why you don’t like the other arguments?

      Like

    • Topher says:

      I don’t think 5 is necessarily true. It assumes that standardized tests are all that students work toward at the request of teachers, when most teachers use standards and the tests as a way to somewhat shape curriculum. “Teaching to the test” is one of the dumbest phrases, and I wonder if people really mean “teaching to the standards.” But that’s another subject altogether.

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  6. […] Ten Reason to Actively Oppose Standardized State Tests in Schools … […]

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    • Johnny says:

      I as a student deeply oppose standardized grading. Standardized tests are an inadiquite aproach to track a students progress. Each student is an own individual and needs to be treated as such.

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      • EricIndiana says:

        It’s important to hear a student perspective. A lot of times adults make decisions about schools without even talking to the kids who are affected. So thanks for writing, Johnny.

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  7. You need to add a facebook button to your blog. I just “liked” this post, but had to do it manually. Just my $.02 🙂

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  8. constance says:

    I teach in South Korea, which is test, test, test crazy. Everything here is for the “Korean SAT,” as it’s so quaintly called; if the material isn’t testable, and primarily testable for that test, it isn’t/won’t be/can’t be taught. The kids refuse to learn it and the administration discourages, if not downright disallows it. The result? An abysmal lack of reasoning skills and little to no intellectual curiosity. Of course, the world doesn’t see this. I was totally impressed by the Korean educational system, until I was immersed in it. You know why? Because they score so high on tests!! ha ha! The irony! I hate to think that the U.S. system is turning into this, but my sister-in-law, a veteran high school teacher, tells me it is.

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  9. Shane Leone says:

    Wow, I just can’t stop laughing at all this.

    I’ve been teaching for two years, and you’re speaking out of your ass.

    The standardized tests are the most important things in a child’s life.

    What do you want these kids to learn, if you don’t like something to stand up against it. That’s what a hippie is, they don’t want to take tests so they walk out.

    They don’t realize it’s to figure out which schools deserve more money for the students that are learning.

    Maybe if all of the kids walk out and ignore their tests, they’ll end up being bloggers posting radical sheep related comments on the internet.

    Maybe they’ll become the sheep themselves!

    Like

  10. […] Standardized tests assume that children come standardized, which they don’t. Not only is there a huge developmental span between children in the same grade, but it’s normal and healthy for there to be a span. READ FULL POST […]

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