EXPLAINED: What are standardized tests and why do we need them? (2023)

EXPLAINED: What are standardized tests and why do we need them? (1)

standardized tests

BYEd Post Employees June 8, 2021

Few educational topics irritate parents, teachers, and school leaders more than discussions of the use of student test scores to measure the quality of state education systems, districts, schools, and sometimes even governments. teachers. but what exactly are theystandardized testsWhat are they used for and why are there so many?

What makes a test "standardized"?

A test is standardized when all students taking the test must answer the same set of carefully selected questions. This allows people looking at the results to make comparisons between groups of students. The questions on these tests tend to be multiple-choice or true/false because this increases the chances that the results will be fair and objective, with less chance of bias or favoritism in answer scoring.

The process of creating a standardized test and interpreting the results requires many different knowledge in the curriculum, child development, cultural and language differences, statistics, and a field of study called psychometrics.

Why do students have to take so many tests?

(Video) Why do we Need Standardized Testing?

When you think about it, standardized tests are part of our lives and have beenfor a long time. When you take a baby to the doctor, he assesses the baby's health using a "standard" checklist: how does the baby's weight compare to others the same age, and is it meeting developmental milestones? When you apply for a driver's license, the state department of motor vehicles requires that you take a standardized test to verify that you know the rules of the road. When he applies for citizenship, he takes a standardized test to see if he understands the basics of the American government.

In addition, standardized tests are extremely useful for educators and their institutions to assess progress and meet the needs of students. For example, half the states in the US require a kindergarten readiness test. When students apply to college, they usually take the ACT or SAT (although some colleges nowwaiving this requirementin the interest of making admissions more equitable). If you want to go to law school, you take the LSAT. If you want to go to medical school, take the MCAT. There is even a test calledPISAused by 79 countries allowing comparisons between national education systems. (In 2018, the US ranked 13th in reading and 36th in math.)

However, there can be a lot of good, including a lot of testing. This is because the assessments your child takes during the school year serve different purposes. For example, a teacher might administer a social studies test to see if students have absorbed the material she taught in that unit; this allows you to check if there is a need for revision. A principal may decide to test all students in a grade if there is a pattern of lower math proficiency; this allows you to make sure that teaching materials work or if teachers need additional training. Some school districts use standardized diagnostic tests several times a year to detail what individual students are learning, such asNWEA MAP testsoiReady Testicles by Curriculum Associates. Additionally, federal law requires states to test students in grades 3 through 8 once a year in reading and mathematics, again in high school.

Why is the federal government involved in standardized testing?

While America has some wonderful schools, we have long struggled to raise achievement levels. In 1983, a bipartisan group of educators and staff wrote a report called "a nation in dangerwho noted: "If a hostile foreign power had tried to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."

Not much has changed.loveless tom,an education expert, says: “What surprises me is the stability of the US performance [in PISA]. The scores have always been mediocre.”

Another standardized test that is administered to representative groups of students (calledNational Assessment of Educational Progressor the "Nation's Report Card") finds that two-thirds of children are not proficient readers.

America's backward status relative to other first world countries led the federal government to begin mandating standardized tests to improve teaching and learning. A 1965 law calledElementary and Secondary Education Law(ESEA), which linked additional funding for disadvantaged students with state compliance, was reauthorized in 2003 as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). For states to qualify for this additional federal funding, they would have to assess student learning using standardized tests annually (grades 3-8 and once in high school). They also had to report test scores for historically underserved groups, such as students with disabilities, English language learners, and low-income children. Each group, as well as schools, districts, and states, must meet a benchmark called "Adequate Yearly Progress," or AYP.

Why are standardized tests so controversial?

They used to not be controversial! But they became that way when the federal government got involved and American educators and leaders became concerned with the college and career readiness of high school graduates.

Many point to No Child Left Behind as the time when standardized testing became controversial. Sometimes transparency is painful: The results of these tests quickly showed large differences in proficiency between students of color and their white peers, for example.

In response, we began to take student achievement, and the achievement gap between rich and poor, black and white children, more seriously. Instead of simply archiving the results, states began using test scores to assess the quality of schools, districts, state departments of education, and even teachers. This led to a series of questions:

  • Why does this school produce kids who do poorly in math while the students at this other school are math wizards?
  • Are the textbooks to blame?
  • is the principal?
  • Does one school support teachers better than the other school?
  • Does a school have more homeless students or more students with disabilities or more English learners?

In some cases, teachers and administrators felt unfairly targeted. Parents were sometimes sadly surprised that their children were not learning as much as they thought. There may be a perception, sometimes true, that standardized tests are used to unfairly punish beloved teachers or administrators, or that test scores deny students coveted opportunities, such as admission to specialized schools or programs.

An example of the overly intrusive nature of NCLB was the absurdly ambitious goal of 100% proficiency for the 2013-2014 school year. In response, states lowered the standards and made it easier for tests to pass so they would still receive federal funding. In addition, NCLB made unrealistic demands on schools serving underserved communities and led towhat many educators have describedas a toxic culture of “exercise and die” test prep that has taken much of the joy out of school and learning.

(Video) Standardized Testing: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

For these and other reasons, in 2015 the law was reauthorized and No Child Left Behind became theEvery Student Act of Success, which reduced the federal role by eliminating annual benchmarks and adding flexibility for states to decide how to be held accountable.

But states still need to share individual school and district test results with the public to clarify which schools are doing well for students and which are not. With this information, the hope is that we can raise achievement levels across the country, especially for historically underserved students.

Are standardized tests racist?

America is beset by structural inequalities, and one of the most dangerous and pervasive inequalities is racism, which permeates all aspects of life frompoorly maintained housesforbelow average medical careforfood insecurityforfewer resources for schoolsthat serve students of color. Standardized tests are no different: for example, a century ago, an American psychologist namedLewis Termanwrongly and offensively stated that I.Q. the tests showed that African-Americans, Spanish-Indians, and Mexicans were not as smart as whites.

There are other ways that tests can be biased. There was a famous example in the 1990s when an SAT question asked for the best analogy between "runner" and "marathon." The answer was "rower" and "regatta", vocabulary that may be familiar only to wealthy teenagers. This was an excellent example of socioeconomic bias.

But standardized tests can also be a way to overcome inherent bias. When teacher perceptions are the sole criteria for student access to gifted and talented programs, black and brown students may be overlooked.The search showsthat when standardized tests are used, more students of color are selected for accelerated learning.

Meanwhile, testing companies have initiated programs to create tests and learning materials that are culturally, racially, and socioeconomically sensitive. For example, in 2021, Pearson, a major textbook publisher and provider of standardized tests, publishededitorial guidelinesaddress race, ethnicity, equity and inclusion.

Standardized tests can, in fact, perpetuate racial inequality and racial bias in the system. However, without them, we are at the mercy of subjective assessments. That's why the National Urban League led a coalition ofcivil rights, social justice, disability rights and education groupsto urge US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to require states to maintain their standardized testing schedules during the coronavirus pandemic. They wrote,

To understand the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and ensure that this pandemic does not jeopardize the future of students across the country, we must collect accurate, objective, and comparable data that speaks to the quality of education right now, including state assessment data. .

What do standardized tests have to do with civil rights?

Civil rights have long focused on issues of justice and equality. In the world of education, equity means that systems are in place to ensure that all children have an equal chance of success, regardless of family income or skin color.

There are many ways to see that these aspirations are not realized. But standardized test scores are one of the clearest and most compelling indicators that civil rights advocates can use to show the glaring inequities in our current education system.

An example: a reportbeam of lightfound that in San Francisco, 70% of white students are proficient in math, compared to just 12% of black students, a difference of 58 points. This pattern—white students far outnumber black students—is pervasive in many parts of the country and underscores America's challenge to raise achievement and instill equity in our schools.

EXPLAINED: What are standardized tests and why do we need them? (2)
(Video) Should we get rid of standardized testing? - Arlo Kempf

If you want to see gaps in how your state and/or city serves students of different races, visitWhy competition is important, a simple online tool to reveal gaps in racial competence (sometimes called "performance gaps").

To reduce these large disparities, we need standardized assessments. They provide a clear way to measure how well our school systems are serving the children most at risk. The information we get from these tests gives states and school districts the data they need to create more equitable systems.

This practice is in line with the goals of the civil rights movement: to provide all students with equal educational opportunities and protection under the law, regardless of race, religion, or income level. That's why everyone fromthis professor in kentuckyforMichelleObamafor presidentsBush, Obama y Trumpcall education the most important civil rights issue of our time.

Why the federal government wants us to testallchild? Can't we just test a sample of kids to see how a school district is doing?

We already do this through calls "National Bulletin”, which is given every two years to a sample of students from each state. It is very useful! But children who are not assessed by NAEP may go unnoticed, and NAEP does not provide us with detailed information about an individual student's proficiency available on more focused and inclusive tests.

It is important to note that the NAEP does not have consequences for poor performance. It is intended to be an indicator of the general academic health of our country, state by state. This ensures that the results are genuine and comparable.

So how can we make sure that states and districts are actually working to improve the education they provide to disadvantaged students? That's where the federal government comes in. After all, our current national education law is called the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” not the “Some Students Succeeded Act.” Under this law, if a state has many students who are not meeting standards in math or reading, the federal government requires that state to identify districts, schools, and specific groups of students that need more support.

If states only tested a fraction of children, there would be no reliable way to identify which schools and districts need improvement. More importantly, there would be no reliable way to identify which marginalized groups of students were not receiving the level of support and instruction they needed to thrive. That's why every state must set ambitious goals for students to grow academically, even those furthest behind, and report progress toward those results, disaggregated by race, income, and disability.

And how are these schools, districts, or student groups identified? Through standardized tests. Of course, no test is perfect. But when you look at a huge system, you can only see general trends. It's easy to say "all our kids are fine" even when some of them aren't.

Can we really trust these tests to provide an accurate measure of student learning?

No single test can measure a single student's proficiency in math and reading. That was never the claim, and that's why we don't use state standardized assessments for your child's report card scores, for example. But these tests can look at different groups of students within a school and help school leaders know which students are struggling or if instructional changes are needed.

In the world of education policy, this idea of ​​requiring schools to make improvements when standardized test data shows they are underperforming is called "accountability." And it is a vital component of civil rights. We must recognize the problem and then act, whether you're talking about Rosa Parks sitting in the whites-only section of the bus or education activists in Nashville who are addressing a problem.literacy crisiswhere seven out of ten third grade students cannot read at grade level.

Suppose your child's elementary school gives all fifth graders the state reading test and finds that this group is performing worse than last year's fifth graders. Is it because there are more students this year with learning difficulties? Were there many snow days? Has the district just implemented a new reading program that may be slowing performance? Do teachers not receive as much guidance as in previous years? Did the school increase class sizes last year so students don't get more attention?

Selected standardized test scores can narrow down the reasons and thus guide educators toward the right solutions. Without the test, teachers and parents would not know there is a problem. If you can't recognize a problem, you can't solve it.

(Video) VIDEO: Teachers explain how standardized testing causes stress on students

Askatrina millerof Educational Associations explains,

We must overcome the fear of data in education. Having as much robust data as possible only helps us better understand student needs. Doctors order complete blood tests for a checkup to get an idea of ​​how the entire human system works. We need that same mentality in education.

I trust that my child's teacher will know when my child is having trouble. Why stress him out with a test?

Our teachers definitely have a great sense of student progress. But teachers have to work within a much larger system that they cannot control. It's really hard to get big institutions, like school districts or even state departments of education, to make change, especially when those same institutions have poorly served the same groups of children for generations. Changing these systems requires strong statistical evidence provided by standardized tests.

A lot of work is needed to improve the systems. And even if your child is doing well, much depends on our national efforts to raise the levels of academic achievement for students who have long failed in our schools.

What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on standardized testing?

Many people agree that forcing children to be tested during a plague year would be pointless and even cruel. In fact, at the start of the pandemic, the Trump administrationallowed stateswaive all spring standardized tests for 2020.

The following year, many expected the Biden administration to follow suit, as large numbers of students were still learning remotely and schools struggled all year to keep up with learning. However, the Biden administrationaddressed concernscivil rights and educational justice groups, demanding that statescontinue testing, precisely because it was such a challenging year and so many children would have been left behind.

However, states have been given tremendous flexibility in how and who they test in 2021, so we are actually missing two years of data. This certainly creates enormous obstacles for districts seeking to diagnose the effectiveness of their schools and curricula, and removes a critical tool from the civil rights industry's advocacy toolbelt.

What are the opportunities for activism?

  • UNDERSTAND the tests children are taking and why.

Become an informed consumer. Information is power. To advocate effectively, you need to understand the purpose of certain tests and how your school will use the results. Is it to carry out the instruction? Is it to measure state trends? Is it to comply with federal regulations?

Under the Biden administrationUS bailout plan, states will allocate $125 billion to K-12 schools to help students catch up after a year of school closures. One of the restrictions is that your state must come up with a plan to assess student progress during this pandemic year. Don't hide from learning loss! We need the data to create plans to address the crisis. So go to school board meetings and write or call your legislators demanding that your state's assessment plan for 2021, whether using surrogate tests, delaying regular state tests, or using abbreviated versions of the tests, be implemented. with integrity, with a focus on serving students. and families, and an intrepid search for accurate information.

  • SHARE the message that standardized testing helps defend civil rights.

Even if you are not concerned about your own child's progress, remember that without standardized tests we would not be able to measure progress.competition gapsthat highlight the gross inequalities within our public education system. Our schools are not serving large groups of children fairly; in this sense, supporting standardized tests is part of the work of guaranteeing children's justice. Take initiatives to increase your community's comfort level with testing and its understanding of its powerful role in promoting educational equity.

  • PUSH ON your state, district, or school to improve standardized testing.

Today's standardized tests, while vital to closing learning gaps, are stuck in the Stone Age. To minimize the time and money spent on assessments, state education systems must invest in innovating our testing infrastructure. Technology exists to automaticallyessay questionsbut we don't use it. The technology is there forcustomize test questionsto the proficiency level of each student, but we do not use it. Technology is there to change thingstest result in 24 hoursbut we don't use it.

(Video) What is a Standardized Test?

Activists can demand that their state leaders invest in innovation to make testing less stressful and more useful for students, teachers, parents, schools, and states.


EXPLAINED: What are standardized tests and why do we need them? ›

A standardized test is any type of test in which all test takers must address the same questions or subset of questions from a shared pool. Standardized testing creates a baseline for measuring student performance among districts, maintains teacher responsibility, and aids educators while developing their curriculum.

What are standardized tests and why do we need them? ›

A standardized test is any type of test in which all test takers must address the same questions or subset of questions from a shared pool. Standardized testing creates a baseline for measuring student performance among districts, maintains teacher responsibility, and aids educators while developing their curriculum.

How do you explain standardized tests? ›

A standardized test is a test that is given to students in a very consistent manner; meaning that the questions on the test are all the same, the time given to each student is the same, and the way in which the test is scored is the same for all students.

Why do we need standardized? ›

The process of standardization is vital for the process of marketing for the organization. It is important because it makes the buying and selling of products easy in a more effective manner. It helps to define the standard and quality, and if the product is up to the mark, it can be easily sold or buy in the market.

What was the original purpose of standardized testing? ›

From 1875 through the end of World War I, standardized tests were developed to determine student preparation for college. In 1890, the president of Harvard College proposed a national entrance exam for American colleges.

What are the three main purposes of standardized testing? ›

Purpose of Standardized Testing

The main purposes for standardized testing are to compare student achievement, to serve as an accountability measurement for teachers/schools/school districts, and to provide the necessary information for data-driven instruction.

How do standardized tests affect students? ›

This can cause many mental issues as students are studying for long periods of time and stressing about a test. According to soeoline.com, “Standardized testing causes headaches, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, stress and attendance issues”. Standardized testing is also, in some cases, ineffective.

What are the pros and cons of standardized testing? ›

The Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing
  • Pro # 1. Standardized testing is a metric for learning. ...
  • Pro # 2. Standardized testing helps pinpoint areas for improvement. ...
  • Pro # 3. Standardized tests can help schools evaluate progress. ...
  • Con #1. Test scores can impact confidence. ...
  • Con #2. ...
  • Con #3.

Are standardized tests effective? ›

Key Takeaways. Standardized tests don't accurately measure student learning and growth. Unlike standardized tests, performance-based assessment allows students to choose how they show learning. Performance-based assessment is equitable, accurate, and engaging for students and teachers.

Which is an example of a standardized test *? ›

SAT. Once known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT is one of the most well-known and commonly administered standardized tests in the United States. Most high school juniors and seniors take the SAT or the PSAT (Preliminary SAT), as it is a common requirement for admission to college.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of standardization? ›

A second advantage is that it can reduce costs by enabling all hotels in a chain to take advantage of economies of scale and negotiate lower prices from suppliers. The main disadvantage to standardization is that it reduces the flexibility of a chain to cater for regional tastes and expectations.

What are your concerns about taking standardized tests? ›

Standardized tests scores are not predictors of future success. Standardized tests can only, at best, evaluate rote knowledge of math, science, and English. The tests do not evaluate creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, artistic ability, or other knowledge areas that cannot be judged…

What are the different types of standardized tests? ›

Finally, the three major types of standardized tests are psychological, which measures performance compared to diagnostic criteria; achievement, which determines comprehension of skills or knowledge; and aptitude, which forecasts abilities.

Who invented standardized testing and why? ›

French psychologist Alfred Binet begins developing a standardized test of intelligence, work that would eventually be incorporated into a version of the modern IQ test, dubbed the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test.

When did US standardized testing start? ›

1959: ACTs are introduced

The first American College Testing (ACT) exams were administered in 1959, with sections on math, English, social studies, and natural science. Students were given 45 minutes for each section. The standardized test became widely accepted in college admissions across the country.

What are the most important characteristics of a standardized test? ›

Any standardized test must have high reliability and validity. These tests are valid, reliable, and easy to understand. Due to a high degree of objectivity, which reflects the extent to which personal errors have been avoided. They consist of items of high quality.

What are the two main types of standardized tests? ›

Standardized tests, when used appropriately and for the right reasons, can adequately determine a student's present level of strengths and weaknesses and his or her aptitude for certain abilities. There are two basic types of achievement assessments: norm-referenced and criterion referenced.

Do standardized tests only determine which students are good at taking tests? ›

Standardized tests only determine which students are good at taking tests, offer no meaningful measure of progress, and have not improved student performance. Standardized tests are racist, classist, and sexist. Standardized tests are unfair metrics for teacher evaluations.

Why are standardized tests criticized? ›

Some critics believe that standardized tests don't always accurate reflect what a student has learned. Many critics are also concerned about bias in test taking.

What potential effects could standardized testing have on student motivation? ›

High-stakes tests often decrease student motivation and lead to higher student retention and dropout rates. students are retained, thousands of them drop out of school. Retention in grade does not motivate students to learn more or perform better. Instead, retention motivates many students to leave school early.

Is standardized testing the best measurement of development? ›

Standardized testing is the best measurement of development. A child's culture can negatively impact the results of a standardized test. In teaching children science and math concepts, it is important for the teacher to present the information clearly while the children listen so that they understand the concepts.

What are the negative outcomes of standardized testing? ›

Early Psychological Impact

“Teachers and parents report that high-stakes tests lead to higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of confidence on the part of elementary students,” researchers explained in a 2005 study.

Do tests really help students learn? ›

Tests can be especially beneficial if they are given frequently and provide near-immediate feedback to help students improve. This retrieval practice can be as simple as asking students to write down two to four facts from the prior day or giving them a brief quiz on a previous class lesson.

Why standardized tests still matter? ›

In addition to comparing students against one another or identifying problematic schools or districts, standardized tests can also illustrate student progress over time. Taking the same or similar tests over the years can allow students to indicate measurable improvement.

Do standardized tests still matter? ›

Yes, standardized tests still matter. For students applying to academically selective colleges in the US, they should still take and submit their ACT or SAT scores.

What makes a standardized test reliable? ›

Reliability is a measure of consistency. It is the degree to which student results are the same when they take the same test on different occasions, when different scorers score the same item or task, and when different but equivalent tests are taken at the same time or at different times.

What is the most common standardized test? ›

The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is a college admission standardized test that many students take every year.

What is the best standardized test? ›

Stanford Achievement Test (SAT; High School Version – TASK)

This is also a top-rated, nationally standardized test. The Stanford tests listening skills through grade eight, and includes the scores from science/social studies in the Complete Composite score.

Who invented standardized testing? ›

The man considered to be the Father of Standardized Testing in the U.S. is Horace Mann, who was secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education from 1837-48. Before 1845, oral examinations prevailed as the primary way to measure educational attainment in American schools.

What is the most important benefit of standardization? ›

By standardizing processes and tasks, it becomes easier to document and then retain knowledge. Standardization involves drafting clear instructions, which means it's far less likely that you'll lose important knowledge when someone leaves the company to find a new job or retire.

Who benefits from standardization? ›

The benefits of standardization. Fundamentally, standardization means that your employees have an established, time-tested process to use. When done well, standardization can decrease ambiguity and guesswork, guarantee quality, boost productivity, and increase employee morale.

What are four advantages of standardization? ›

Rationalize different varieties of products. Decrease the volume of products in the store and also the manufacturer cost. Improve the management and design. Speed up the management of orders.

What is a standardized test quizlet? ›

Standardized tests are any tests that are administered and scored in a pre-specified, standard manner. Standardized tests are usually used in large-scale settings in an attempt to assess the performance of students across whole schools, districts, states, and nations.

What is standardization in education? ›

Standardization assumes that if every individual is exposed to the very same sets of instructional conditions (also assuming that every teacher teaches the exact same way), the result will be that all students walk away with the same level of knowledge.

Do standardized tests effectively measure intelligence? ›

Standardized tests do not take into account the different qualities that are unique such as home life or mental health. Believe it or not, everyone is different, and not everyone has the same opportunities or ability to study and get the extra help that others do. Standardized tests don't show intelligence.

Why is it important for assessments to be standardized quizlet? ›

Why is it important for cognitive tests to be standardized? so the scores can be compared, to reduce bias in test administration, and so that any variance in performance on the test can be attributed to the student's ability, not differences in how the test was administered.

What are standardized test called? ›

California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Assessments.

What are the 4 types of standardization? ›

There are at least four levels of standardization: compatibility, interchangeability, commonality and reference. These standardization processes create compatibility, similarity, measurement, and symbol standards.

What is standardization in simple words? ›

Standardization is the process of developing, promoting and possibly mandating standards-based and compatible technologies and processes within an industry. Technology standards focus on ensuring quality, consistency, compatibility, interoperability and safety.

Do standardized tests really reveal a student's knowledge? ›

Standardized tests scores are not predictors of future success. Standardized tests can only, at best, evaluate rote knowledge of math, science, and English. The tests do not evaluate creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, artistic ability, or other knowledge areas that cannot be judged…

Why are some people better at standardized tests? ›

Research shows that what makes these people so good at taking tests is likely a mix of: Low test-taking anxiety which allows them to perform better in the moment. Well-informed schemas that provide greater context and allow them to make more educated assumptions (guesses) especially when the test is multiple choice.

Do colleges care about standardized tests? ›

SAT scores help colleges compare students from different high schools. Your scores show your strengths and readiness for college work. But remember standardized test scores are just one part of your college application, along with grades, course rigor, and recommendations.


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