It’s that time of year again. The time of year that brings back the nail-biting habit once thought to be overcome. The time of year defined by desperate last attempts at cramming an entire year’s worth of information into one night of studying. Of course this is all because it is the time of year that determines whether students that spent nine months slogging through rigorous coursework would actually get the college credit they worked so hard for: the Advanced Placement testing season.
This is Unpopular Opinions, a Lariat column centering around opinions so thoroughly disagreed with that simply conceding to one aspect of their defense will get one mildly maimed. For this entry, it’s time to confront the facts- standardized testing is really not all that bad for students.
In fact, it has proven to be a positive influence on students overall. Independent education researcher Richard P. Phelps collected and analyzed testing data on standardized testing in a paper entitled The Effect of Testing on Achievement: Meta-Analyses and Research Summary, 1910–2010. Through his research, Phelps found that 93 percent of studies on student testing reported a positive effect on student achievement.
The revelation should come as no surprise when one considers what standardized testing does for the student psyche. Not only does it provide an ultimate end-goal to work towards, but it also serves as an equalizer between peers; everyone takes the same standard of examination, which provides a basis for comparing results on a level playing field between members of the same grade or class experience.
Many will point to the fact that the United States still struggles on the global stage in reading, math and science. They wouldn’t be wrong: the country trails behind China, Finland, Japan and Canada in all of these categories according to the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). However, more factors are at play in those results. For one, America’s educational institutions across the country are inconsistent and can vary wildly state by state. It is in fact a lack of standardization across the United States that hurts overall academic performance on the world stage.
Others decry standardized testing by claiming it takes the love and passion out of teaching. Some call the behavior it encourages “teaching to the test.” But standardized testing and enjoyable classroom experiences can coexist. They are not mutually exclusive entities. In the end a teacher can approach the test material in as creative a fashion as possible so long as the baseline curriculum is touched upon. This ensures that, while fun is had, productive educational activity is still occurring.
Standardized testing is the most beneficial method of reporting student understanding of information to administrative powers that can look for ways to improve education and the United States’ standing in the world. It provides reliable and valid knowledge in order to let governments allocate resources and funding to schools that need it while also rewarding successful schools.
So while it’s easy to blame standardized testing as a whole for the faults of certain standardized exams, in reality it is a good measuring tool for success and a positive influence on overall student performance.
Photo by Lariat Photography