Standardized Tests and Education

Using standardized tests for student and teacher accountability continues to be headline news. 

By definition, half the test scores on standardized test must be below average. If too many test takers score correctly on a test item, the item is eliminated because it does not differentiate enough. In addition, (1) standardized tests do not correlate with most school curriculums, (2) these tests are biased toward higher economic communities, and (3) they are not valid because they were not developed to assess if what has been taught has been learned. But there is another major problem with using standardized tests to assess schooling.

I think that most people would agree that what has been learned in school should be helpful in some way after a person leaves school. After all the purpose of schooling is not just to do well in school as much as it is for preparation for the future.

A major problem is that these test scores are aimed at finding a single correct answer. However, outside of the classroom, life does not depend on one correct answer; it depends on finding solutions to problems where there are no correct answers. The point, of course, is that students and teachers should be assessed on these types of situations as well—rather than those just aimed at academic performance in schools. 

Question: Where does this concern enter the current conversation on accountability and assessment?

Answer: It doesn’t. One of the most important functions of schooling is completely ignored in the accountability discussion.