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The Validity Of Standardized Tests

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Standardized testing is the scourge that plagues the classroom and renders immobile the wheels of thought in a quagmire of ineffectual batteries of questions unintentionally fashioned to inaccurately assess a student's mastery of subject material.

I intend to research the validity of standardized tests in school. The standardized tests can include the Stanford 9, PSAT, SAT, CRCT, etc. I chose this topic because I feel that educators and political leaders place an undue amount of importance on it. A flaw in standardized testing is that while two students know the same subject material, one may get a question right while the other does not. Through my research, I tried find a more effective personalized test that would help most of the students. This topic appeals to me because I generally do well at standardized tests. Before we go further, let me explain what standardized tests are. They are just one type of assessment, although they often get the most publicity. We need to know "What is the purpose of the assessment?" and "Is this purpose worthy or meaningful? The approach we take appears to be overly punitive when it really should be ultimately served and the primary goals should be helping students. Our students are disconnected, bored, and alienated from their own natural ability to learn while they needed to be hopeful and learn with a joy. Currently, 49 states use standardized tests. Our President George W. Bush's NO Child Left Behind Act has mandated high-stakes testing in grades 3-8 across the country and tells us how much importance we are giving to this type of tests. Not only has the creator of the SAT Carl Brigham stated, "If the unhappy day ever comes when teachers point their students towards these newer examinations, then we may look for the inevitable distortion of education in terms of tests."

During my research I used various studies done on the efficacy of standardized tests, the opinion and experience of teachers and students, newspaper, online journals, websites, books, magazine articles etc. While I was working on my visual aid, according to the website (, I learned that based on studies, this type of testing is turning our schools into test-prep factories, while punishing low-income youth, students of color and boring just about everyone. Some of the facts they lay out are:

* In general, most students taking the SAT may score an extra 30 points for every $10,000-15,000 in their parents income.

* States spent about $400 million to test students.

* Nine of the top ten states with highest drop out rates make decisions about graduation based on the outcome of standardized tests in their schools.

Standardized tests are just one type of assessment, although they often get the most publicity. Too often, the rationale for standardized testing appears overly disciplinary: "We're going to get these kids and schools to perform better - or else." This kind of approach forgets that assessment should serve one primary purpose; to improve student learning. The goal is not to flunk kids or wave fingers at lousy teachers, not to make pronouncements that will be remembered at election time, and certainly not to give students more of the same paraphernalia even though it didn't work the first time - but to provide information to help the student to learn better. Any assessment should ultimately serve, and not undercut, the primary goal of helping the student. (Bob Peterson and Monty Neill, 1999).

Michele Forman, the national 2001 Teacher of the Year, said, "Learning and teaching is messy stuff. It doesn't fit into bubbles. I don't think a simple pencil-and-paper test is going to capture what students know and can do." A different way to evaluate a student's progress is the use of portfolios. A portfolio is a detailed collection of work that allows the student, teacher, and parent to witness how the student's thoughts and work ethic evolve over the months or years. Similarly, at many schools, students display their projects at exhibitions or "learning fairs." Participants get the opportunity to look at each other's work, ask questions, and then use what they've learned to continue their educational journeys. Art Howe, an ex-dean of admissions from Yale, said, "Sometimes I lie awake nights worrying about whether we've been kidding ourselves into taking a lot of brainy kids who are too egocentric to ever contribute much to society. Or have we been taking a lot of twerps who have read the how-to-get-into-college books, listened to their counselors, and learned to take tests and give the right answers." (Wetzel, Bill, 2002) Dr. Joseph Mayo, professor of psychology at Gordon College, has his own techniques of grading his students. He calls it "Authentic Assessment." It mimics real-life applications. Students tested in this manner show what they can do and not just what they know. It is a



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