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Standardized Tests: The Test Mess

Updated on September 11, 2013

A, B, C, D, or None of the Above?

Take out a no. 2 pencil. This statement, familiar to anyone who has attended school in the United States, strikes terror into the heart of students and educators alike. It means one thing; a standardized test is looming just over the horizon, and you’d better be ready because once the timer starts, there’s no turning back. A student's academic growth is an obvious goal of education especially “in light of federal legislation like Goals 2000 and The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Both acts emphasize high academic standards and continual assessment of student progress measured through standardized testing” (Barrier-Ferreira 139). The problem is, however, America’s education system is placing an increasing amount of emphasis on a flawed testing system. Standardized tests are interfering with students’ personal growth, which directly affecting teachers’ abilities to nurture their students in a wide variety of facets, and these tests are producing results that don’t represent a well-rounded education. Before diving into the inadequacies of standardized testing, it’s important to highlight and understand the reasoning and influences behind this particular point of view.

Knowledge is Power

I believe in the old adage “knowledge is power.” Knowledge is acquired through reasoning and life experiences. A quest for knowledge, however, would be incomplete without an attempt to understand the world we live in. When one tries to understand the world around them, this is referred to as cognition. Knowledge and cognition go hand-in-hand in ones intellectual journey through life. Standardized testing goes against a human being's natural quest and inner journey to discovering themselves or the world itself. The educational system should be reaching beyond skills or standards and concentrate on developing the personal and mental growth of students.

Learning Styles

Standardized tests were not created to measure a student's personal growth. They were created to measure a student's academic progress. Unfortunately, this type of test isn’t a good fit for many students; because, it doesn’t place any value on a student's learning style. This, coupled with the fact that the “assessments are used as virtually the sole indicators of schools' [and student's] successes and failures,” confirms that a new form of system needs to be created (Barrier-Ferreira 139). A system that opposes “standardized testing of both students and teachers” and encourages critical thinking and firsthand experience (Webb 90). Our society should adapt these beliefs as mainstream. A new form of evaluation would not only benefit the students but their teachers as well.

The Bigger Picture

Standardized testing is forcing teachers to focus on test material, and students are missing out on the bigger picture. Educators forced down this road of teaching aren’t looking out for the whole child. A student is not simply composed of intellect, they're emotional and spiritual as well. Students deserve a well-rounded education. If standardized testing requirements continuously handicap educators, students won’t be prepared for life in the real world. The educational system needs to steer away from teaching towards a test and begin allowing teachers to be “transformational leaders” and “agents of change.”

Inherently Flawed

Students possess different academic needs in the classroom, and educators are expected to create fluid lesson plans that fit the students' educational and developmental needs. Meanwhile, those same students who possess different needs, learning styles, or different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, are measured by one universal test that supposedly "paints a clear picture of academic success." The standardized test system is inherently flawed because it’s rewarding students for quickly answering superficial questions that barely require any thought. These tests don’t support the cultivation of creativity. In fact, they do the exact opposite by emphasizing short-term fact retention, while fostering test anxiety. This type of education can’t benefit society or nurture a student's education. This only reinforces “why schools have become so irrelevant to kids’ lives” (Zhao).

Students Deserve Better

Students of the 21st century deserve a better system than our current one. A system that doesn't center around a standardized test. The personal and mental growth of students, accompanied by well-formulated lesson plans that meet the students' educational needs, while fostering creativity and critical thinking, is the key to a successful education. Standardized tests are like detours on the roadway of educational success, and we need to start clearing the way by putting away those no. 2 pencils.

Alternatives to Standardized Testing

Works Cited

Barrier-Ferreira, Julia. "Producing Commodities or Educating Children? Nurturing the Personal Growth of Students in the Face of Standardized Testing." Clearing House 81.3 (Jan. 2008): 138-140. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Kent State Stark, North Canton, OH. 23 Sep. 2008< login?url=http://search =29346390&site=ehost-live>.

Webb, L. Dean et al. “The Impact of Educational Theories on Educational Practice.” Foundations of American Education. Ed. Debra A. Stollenwerk. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Inc., 2007. 73-97.

Zhao, Yong. "ON STANDARDIZED TESTING AND OUR RELUCTANCE TO CHANGE." Phi Delta Kappan 89.5 (Jan. 2008): 351-351. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Kent State Stark, North Canton, OH. 23 Sep. 2008 <>.


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