Pro: Standardized testing is needed to measure growth.
Recently, United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, issued a letter to state school chiefs announcing the administration’s plans to enforce national standardized testing requirements for K-12 students. Schools are expected to proceed with administering standardized tests such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the California Science Test (CAST).
The administration expects states to adhere to the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), which requires states to annually administer assessments in language arts and mathematics each spring. In March and April, the Education Department temporarily suspended testing requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the pandemic, continuing to suspend federal standardized testing will be detrimental to students. Schools should proceed with standardized testing, as it is necessary to incite beneficial educational reforms and enable districts to appropriately allocate funding and resources during these times.
State standardized testing results are crucial to identifying needed educational reforms, as shown by the reforms following the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s analysis of standardized testing results in 2007. After ranking near the bottom of all states, Tennessee implemented Common Core standards to improve middle school knowledge of Mathematics and Language Arts. By 2014, Tennessee was the fastest improving state in terms of student achievements in eighth-grade reading and math. As evident through Tennessee students’ academic growth, standardized testing is needed to identify shortcomings in state education systems and prompt effective reform. Without standardized testing, states would not be able to implement educational reforms benefiting students.
Administering state standardized testing enables school districts to properly allocate funds and resources during the coronavirus crisis. According to Washington State Senator Patricia Lynn Murray in a statement released in response to DeVos’ letter, collecting data on state testing scores helps reveal disparities harming students of color, students with disabilities and low-income students. Especially during these unprecedented times, understanding why and where students are falling short permits school districts to effectively allocate extra resources and funds to assist students in those areas. Therefore, schools can better support those underprivileged or at-risk students through the analysis of test scores.
Some may argue that during the coronavirus pandemic, state standardized testing is an unnecessary burden, especially because it does not instigate academic growth. However, a study conducted by Richard P. Phelps, an educational policy researcher, discovered students in schools with testing programs learn more than their counterparts in schools without testing requirements; testing scores motivate teachers to provide more effective instruction and students to work to earn a higher score. Therefore, state standardized testing is needed during this time of uncertainty to motivate students toward academic growth.
State standardized testing should continue to be administered, particularly during these times, as it reveals when and what educational reforms are needed and provides school districts with data to distribute funds and resources.
Joy is a senior and managing editor/social media director for El Vaquero. This is her second year on staff.
Con: Standardized tests create added stress.
In an effort to close widening disparities in test scores, California switched from the California Standards Test to Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) for students to test each Spring. These tests were designed to measure their educational abilities and determine low, average, or high performers to create a better learning environment suited to students’ needs.
The U.S. administration set the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, replacing its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, in order for public schools to administer standardized testing annually. Currently, only 50.9% of students meet or exceed expectations in language arts and 39.7% of students meet or exceed expectations in math, according to EdSource. Due to its ineffectiveness, students should not be required to take these standardized tests, especially amidst a global pandemic.
These high-stakes tests don’t accurately assess a student’s potential for success. According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the tests leave a variety of topics uncovered. Using standardized tests is like using tablespoons to measure temperature. In order to have their students perform well, many teachers end up teaching the test rather than an in-depth analysis of the curriculum. Especially when resources aren’t accessible in the midst of a global pandemic, students are not given the same opportunities as they would in a traditional classroom, decreasing chances of success on these exams.
Standardized tests also do not consider external factors that students may face such as test anxiety especially this year with COVID-19 adding on to that anxiety. According to the CDC’s report in August, anxiety levels between April and June 2020 tripled in comparison to 2019. With increased anxiety levels, students are not in the best state to test as they may not perform to the best of their abilities. In turn, lower scores will affect their confidence in their own abilities and develop a negative attitude towards certain subjects. Students don’t need the added pressure of taking a standardized test on top of all the stress they are now facing from distance learning.
Some critics, such as the United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, argue that school testing should continue because without testing, students are at risk of falling behind, which may have lasting effects for years to come as. However, there are many other ways that students could receive help in order to not fall behind. Rather than using resources to assess a student’s current standing, these resources should be put in to actually help these students and get the aid they need. Assessing these students will not help them improve, work needs to be put in to see growth. Many were quick to respond to DeVos, claiming that the education department should suspend these testing requirements due to ongoing disruptions. Students are already having to struggle with the hardships of continuing their education in a distanced format, and as Michigan state governor Gretchen Whitmer said, forcing students to take standardized tests during a global pandemic is just cruel.
Removing standardized testing is essential to combat these issues. The students’ anxiety from scoring high on these tests may also be removed. Standardized testing is not a true indicator of a student’s learning and progress. It’s time for schools to start investing in in-depth learning, rather than teaching how to take these tests.
Brianna is a senior and executive editor for El Vaquero. This is her third year on staff.