Standardized tests are any tests that are administered and scored in a pre-specified, standard manner• The same questions and/or tasks are required of each test-taker• The same information is provided to each test-taker immediately before and during the test• Each test-taker has the same amount of time allowed to take the test• Responses are scored in the same way
Standardized tests are usually used in large-scale settings in an attempt toassess the performance of students acrosswhole schools, districts, states, and nations For this reason, standardized tests are often also referred to as large-scale assessments
In practice, large-scale testing has led to somelimitations.In theory, standardized tests are not limited to any particularassessment approach. They just need to be standard in theirapproach.But in practice, standardized tests usually use easy-to-scoreand easy-to-administer kinds of items, such as multiplechoice and short answer. This is because of the large-scale inwhich they are used and the cost and complication of scoringother more complex forms of student work.
What is the effect of these limits of large-scale assessment? Reliance on multiple-choice items limits the depth at which a test can probe for students’ understanding and thinking.This is one reason why standardized test scores should not be the only measure of a student’s knowledge and performance.
There are two major types of standardized tests:• Achievement tests (designed to measure students’ specific knowledge and skills). Examples include: California Achievement Tests, Stanford Achievement Tests, Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, Metropolitan Achievement Tests.• Aptitude tests (designed to predict how well students are likely to perform in another setting—like college). Examples include: SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and ACT.
There are two major ways of scoring tests• Norm-referenced scoring (scoring is based on comparing a student’s score to that of other students)• Criterion-referenced scoring (scoring is based on how well the student has mastered the content of the test).
There is lots of controversy surrounding standardized testing.• Concerns with Effects of Testing. Some believe that overemphasis on testing leads to “teaching to the test,” making the actual curriculum shallow, and that such tests disrupt the school year, significantly reduce time spent learning, cause anxiety, etc.• Belief in Importance of Testing. Others see such tests as a necessary part of standards-based reform and support their implementation. There are many shades of opinion within the debate.
Misuse of Standardized Test ScoresStandardized tests scores are meant to measurestudent performance, not the educationaleffectiveness of schools.Questions on these tests reflect students’ aptitudeand things learned outside of school over which ateacher or school has no control. This makes thema poor measure of teachers and/or schools. Suchtests are not designed for teacher or schoolevaluation purposes.