Standardized TestingBy Kathy Limmer and Mary Fisk Do high stakes test lead to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
History of Standardized Testing The earliest record of standardized testing comes from China, where hopefuls for government jobs had to fill out examinations testing their knowledge of Confucian philosophy and poetry. In 1905 French psychologist Alfred Binet began 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. By World War I, standardized testing was standard practice: aptitude quizzes called Army Mental Tests were conducted to assign U.S. servicemen jobs during the war effort. In 1926 the Scholastic Aptitude Test(SAT) was founded by the College Board, a nonprofit group of universities and other educational organizations. In 1959 an education professor at the University of Iowa named Everett Franklin created the ACT as a competitor to the SAT. Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that required standardized testing in public schools take place. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 further ties public school funding to standardized testing in public schools. 1914 1926 1959 1965 2001 1905
Why Give Standardized Tests The regular assessment of students serves critical educational and life-learning functions. It focuses the efforts of educators and students on mastering important material. Testing provides educators with crucial intelligence about the needs and abilities of students and the performance of academic programs. Regular assessment provides students and parents with useful feedback regarding how well the student is building important skills and knowledge. It provides students with an important skill—test-taking experience and facility—that will serve them well throughout their lives. A wealth of evidence confirms that testing alone boosts student achievement. (Wolf, 2007) Results are used to create change in the classroom, ultimately strengthening our educational system and international position (Association of American Publishers, 2000) Scores allow administrators and teachers to gauge the performance of students’ acceptance and effectiveness of the current curriculum (Nelson, Palonsky & McCarthy, 2010)
CBS Evening News http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=1472157n Four years after President Bush signed the landmark education bill known as No Child Left Behind, critics say the system has focused too much on testing.
Negative Aspects of Testing Standardized tests have caused students, as young as grade three, the need to learn coping skills in order to deal with stress and anxiety associated with high stakes testing. Based on the location of the school-rural, urban, or suburban-principals feel differently about the test. Rural administrators especially felt differently about high stakes testing. Rural administrators perceived themselves to be more negatively affected in attracting and retaining high-quality teachers; reported feeling a lot of pressure due to the Florida state tests; and reported feeling more pressure to improve their test scores. The percentage of students passing state standardized tests has become the defining measure for whether or not schools are successful. However, there are no factors incorporated into the test scores. Studies show that the variance among test scores can be predicted by knowing the demographic characteristics of the students within the state. As much as 94% of the state variation of the SAT can be explained by students’ academic standing, parent income and education, and race. 90% of the variance can be predicted with parent education and race alone. Students are not being testing on a subject based test, but rather how well they can read and comprehend. In one study it was concluded that (a) students vary greatly in their ability to understand the conceptual nature of test items; (b) not all students are careful, detail-oriented readers; (c) students’ background knowledge varies; (d) the relevance and/or amount of information provided to students in items can affect their performance; (e) individual items have specific features that can affect students’ performance; and (f) students have learned a variety of strategies that can affect their performance.
Here is what Standardized Tests Can Do Holding schools and educators accountable for student performance on tests aligned to high standards of what students should know and be able to do. Consequences are often attached to test results and may include school improvement plans, technical assistance, increased or decreased funding for schools, salary bonuses, promotions, loss of accreditation and takeovers of local schools by the state. Such consequences are used to leverage change at the school and classroom level. Evaluating programs. Many federal and state education programs use standardized tests to determine if public policy objectives are being achieved, and if public funds are well-spent. Determining rewards and sanctions. Tests may be used for high-stakes purposes with rewards and sanctions to make decisions about individual students, such as placement in specific programs or classes, graduation from high school, or promotion to the next grade. (Association of American Publishers, 2000)
What Standardized Testing Does Not Show Us Growth Accurate school growth, since one is comparing previous students to current students (3rd grade scores are compared to previous 3rd grade scores, even though the previous students are currently in 4th grade). Academic Performance Test scores do not show us whether students should be promoted or retained, however they are being used for this purpose. Outside Factors Some of the outside factors that impact students’ learning are: spilt families, demographics, socioeconomic status, race, parents’ education level. Standardized testing does not take any of this into account. Stress and Anxiety As found in students, teachers, parents and school staff.
What are the Problems with Standardized Tests? Underfunding NCLB's unfunded mandate to eliminate all test-score gaps in 12 years assumes that schools by themselves can overcome the educational consequences of poverty and racism. Not only has the federal government failed to meet the social, economic, and health-related needs of many children, but NCLB itself does not authorize nearly enough funding to meet its new requirements One Size Fits All The one-size-fits-all assessment requirements-annual testing in reading and math and periodic testing in science-and the accountability provisions attached to them are rigid, harmful, and ultimately unworkable. They will promote bad educational practices and deform curriculum in significant ways. In the end, they will lower, not raise, standards for most students. School Improvement Estimates by groups such as the National Conference of State Legislators suggest some 70 percent of the nation's schools will be declared "in need of improvement" before the decade is over and thus be subject to escalating sanctions. Florida reported that 87 percent of its schools and all of its districts failed to make "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) in 2002-03. NCLB's punitive test-and-label approach to accountability is the foundation for an equally ineffective approach to school improvement
What Types of Information CanStandardized Tests Provide? Tests can provide information on individual student or group performance that can be interpreted and used in many different ways. Students’ proficiency in basic skills and their ability to meet academic standards. Testing data is used to generate information that teachers, parents, and policy makers need to make decisions about schools and students. (Association of American Publishers, 2000)
Who Supports Standardized Tests? Teachers “A poll by the American Federation of Teachers documented deep support for standards and assessments among teachers.” From AFT website, “The American Federation of Teachers has, for many years, been supportive of quality standardized assessment that is fair and timely, and that informs and supports instruction. When used appropriately, assessments are a valuable tool in improving education for all children. Standardized tests can provide useful data about student learning. When aligned with strong standards and curriculum, for example, test scores can help diagnose student strengths and weaknesses, and can help identify “holes” or “gaps” in the curriculum and standards. Assessment data can trigger important interventions such as extra help for struggling students or professional development for teachers.” American Public “A survey released by the Business Roundtable in September, 2000, found that 85 percent of the American public says statewide tests are useful to schools in Evaluating how well students are performing.” Parents “A survey by the Association of American Publishers found overwhelming parental Support for standardized testing.2 According to the survey, a large majority of parents (83 percent) believe that standardized tests provide important information about their children’s educational progress, and nine out of 10 parents said they want comparative data about their children and the schools they attend. More than two thirds of all parents (67 percent) surveyed said they would like to receive Standardized test results for their children in every grade.” (Association of American Publishers, 2000) Association of Test Publishers This mission of the ATP is to inform the public and governmental bodies about the contributions and critical role that professionally developed and administered tests play in our society. ATP monitors legislative, legal and regulatory bodies that commonly deal with testing issues.
Who Does Not Support Standardized Tests? Teachers Do not support standardized tests in the current format they are being utilized. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing This organization believes that high stakes testing is unfair to many students, leads to grade retention and drop-out, promotes teaching to the test, drives out good teachers, misinforms the public, and ultimately high stakes testing does not improve education. Authors Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of twelve books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations. He states in his writings the facts about high stakes testing, in addition to focusing on reasons why some schools perform better than others.
Conclusion Public schools face challenges in regards to No Child Left Behind. Both sides of the heavily debated issue of high stakes tests have been presented. Is there a pot of gold at the end of the high stakes testing rainbow? You be the judge. Life is not a multiple choice test, it's an open-book essay exam. -- Alan Blinder (Princeton).
Not On The Test http://www.teachertube.com/viewVideo.php?title=Not_On_The_Test&video_id=25572. Please enjoy this song from Teacher Tube about standardized tests.
References Association of American Publishers. (2000). Standardized assessment: A primer. Retrieved from http://www.aapschool.org/pdf/Testing%20Primer%20Revised.pdf. Buck, S., Ritter, G., Jensen, N., & Rose, C. (2010, March). Teachers say the most interesting things: An alternative view of testing. Phi Delta Kappan, 91. Retrieved from http://mid-riffs.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Buck-et-al-PDK-article1.pdf. CBS Evening news. Trouble with testing. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=1472157n. Egley, R., & Jones, B. (2004). Rural elementary administrators views of high stakes testing. Rural Educator, 26(1), 30-39. Retrieved from http://mid-riffs.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Buck-et-al-PDK-article1.pdf Henning, J. (2006). Teacher leaders at work: Analyzing standardized achievement data to improve instruction. Education, 126(4). Retrieved from http://tccl.rit.albany.edu/knilt/images/0/07/Henning.pdf. Kohn, A.(2000). Standardized testing and its victims. Education Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/staiv.htm.
References Continued Larson, H., El Ramahi, M., Conn, S., Estes, L, & Ghibellini, A. (2010). Reducing test anxiety among third grade students through the implementation of relaxation techniques. Journal of School Counseling, 8(19). Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov.proxygw.wrlc.org/PDFS/EJ885222.pdf. Neil, M. (2003). Don’t mourn, organize. Rethinking Schools. Retrieved from http://www.rethinkingschools.org/special_reports/bushplan/nclb181.shtml. Nelson, J.L., Palonsky, S., & McCarthy, M.R. (2010). Critical issues in education: Dialogues and dialectics. Education. Paulson, S. E., & Marchant, G. J. (2009). Background variables, levels of aggregation, and standardized test scores. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 17 (22) 1-21. Retrieved from http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/389/512. Forster, J. & Chapin, T. (n.d.). Not on the test. Retrieved from http://www.teachertube.com/viewVideo.php?title=Not_On_The_Test&video_id=25572.
References Continued Visone, J.D. (2010). Science or reading: What is being measured by standardized tests? American Secondary Education, 39(1), 95-112. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.proxygw.wrlc.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=0b84097c-e851-4de1-b3e8-c5a195fa7fee%40sessionmgr114&vid=10&hid=105. Wolf, P. J. (2007). Academic improvement through regular assessment. Peabody Journal of Education, 82(4), 690-702. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=a8292ef5-c7d6-4dad-943f-ca7e55451030%40sessionmgr14&vid=9&hid=17. Wright, Robert E. (2010). Standardized testing for outcome assessment: Analysis of the educational testing systems MBA tests." College Student Journal44.