Benefits of Standardized Testing for Students and Teachers

Thu October 6, 2016

SuperPart2

Part one of this article discussed the opt-out movement. This article explains the benefits of standardized testing.

As mentioned in our previous post, standardized testing is becoming increasingly controversial. Imperfections in the system are drawing many parents and students toward opting out of high-stakes tests. However, despite a flawed and limited system, standardized tests can be beneficial to students.

Standardized tests objectively compare student skill levels across schools

If each school used its own self-written test, there would be no objective way to tell if a student at one school was being better prepared for college and career than one at another school. State and national standardized tests are taken by hundreds of thousands—or even millions—of students each year and are written and graded by people (or machines) who are fully objective. Objectivity, not subjectivity, enables these standardized tests to determine if the student fully grasps the concepts they are learning and to make the appropriate comparisons (Meador 2016).

Standardized testing is paired with standards to ensure mastery of grade-appropriate material

Standards help ensure that students across classrooms and states are learning the same skills at the same time. For example, one class of fifth graders isn’t going to be doing complex algebra while another is still working on addition and subtraction (Meador 2016). Standardized tests, when paired with federal or state standards, can show if students are on track to learn what they need to at a certain level. This often helps low-income and minority students the most because the achievement gap tends to follow an “expectations gap” (Toch 2013) where lower level material is given to struggling minority students.

Standardized testing can serve as motivation for students

These tests show students where they are academically compared to their peers, where benchmarks say they should be, and help identify what skill gaps they have. While many students can accurately predict this, minority students’ predictions are far less accurate (Brown and Hattie 2016).  So, in showing students how they’re doing, testing can level the playing field and create equal opportunity to learn in the classroom. Students often set safe learning goals, and standardized tests can identify specific weaknesses and motivate students to set higher learning goals and  to work harder. Some argue that this high goal is discouraging, but if implemented properly, it can show them they are capable of learning much more than they thought. That confidence boost can have lasting effects on college and career success (Brown and Hattie 2016).

Standardized test data drives instruction

Standardized testing can identify extremely specific individual or classroom skills gaps. When combined with proper knowledge on how to use standardized testing data, student results become a powerful tool to help drive curriculum towards closing those skill gaps. Leaders in education need to make sure teachers are shown how to use data to each student’s advantage (Brown and Hattie 2016). This is often best done through professional development seminars or webinars.

Standardized testing helps schools close achievement gaps

In 2015 a dozen civil rights groups commented on the popular trend to opt students out of standardized exams (Brown 2015). They said, “For the civil rights community, [standardized test] data provide the power to advocate for greater equality under the law.” If standardized testing is optional or has low participation, low-performing students could face encouragement to stay home on test days or be the victims of other unfair practices in an effort to improve a school’s test scores (Brown 2015). If this happens, achievement gaps cannot be found or addressed, leaving low-performing students behind in their studies.

What Can You Do to Prepare Students for College and Career?

Despite the benefits of testing, many argue that individual tests are too high-stakes and stressful for students. This can be prevented. Skills prep, or even test-specific practice, increases student confidence for exams, therefore lowering stress. Practice exams can also be used as a way to catch skill gaps before official standardized tests do. This lowers stress on students and teachers and allows more progress during the year if a student is falling behind.

In an ideal situation, every student the nation would be learning standards-based skills and taking formative and diagnostic assessments during the school year so he or she would (1) know what to expect on high-stakes tests and (2) score higher since his or her skill gaps have been or are being addressed by teachers. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, but there are solutions available for your students that improve scores by targeting skill gaps, Reduce teacher and student stress, increase student confidence, and provide teacher training on the relevance of data. Consider talking to a school relations associate today to find a custom solution for your school or district in the world of high-stakes testing.

 

Meador, Derrick. "What You Need to Know About Standardized Testing." About.com Education. March 24, 2016. Accessed August 08, 2016. http://teaching.about.com/od/assess/a/Standardized-Testing.htm.

Brown, Emma. "Why Civil Rights Groups Say Parents Who Opt out of Tests Are Hurting Kids." Washington Post. May 5, 2015. Accessed August 08, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/why-civil-rights-groups-say-parents-who-opt-out-of-tests-are-hurting-kids/2015/05/05/59884b9a-f32c-11e4-bcc4-e8141e5eb0c9_story.html?tid=a_inl.

Brown, Gavin T.L., and John Hattie. "The Benefits of Regular Standardized Assessment in Childhood Education: Guiding Improved Instruction and Learning." Academia.edu. Accessed August 8, 2016. https://www.academia.edu/1964802/The_benefits_of_regular_standardized_assessment_in_childhood_education_Guiding_improved_instruction_and_learning.

"Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)." Home. Accessed August 08, 2016. http://www.ed.gov/essa?src=rn.

"Every Student Succeeds Act A New Day in Public Education." American Federation of Teachers. Accessed August 8, 2016. aft.org.

Toch, Thomas. "Common Core and Disadvantaged Students." Education Week. October 22, 2013. Accessed August 09, 2016. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/23/09toch_ep.h33.html.

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