Standardized tests have been a part of American education since the mid-1800s. Their use skyrocketed after 2002’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandated annual testing in all 50 states. US students slipped from 18th in the world in math in 2000 to 31st place in 2009, with a similar decline in science and no change in reading. Failures in the education system have been blamed on rising poverty levels, teacher quality, tenure policies, and increasingly on the pervasive use of standardized tests.

A website that specializes in putting Pros and Cons up for public consumption, they do it for every topic, took on education and listed the pros of standard testing and the cons of the same….  They researched the answers and posted them.  It provides a comparison at a glance on how they stack up…  It is very helpful….

Proponents say standardized tests are a fair and objective measure of student achievement, that they ensure teachers and schools are accountable to taxpayers, and that the most relevant constituents – parents and students – approve of testing.

Opponents say the tests are neither fair nor objective, that their use promotes a narrow curriculum and drill-like “teaching to the test,” and that excessive testing undermines America’s ability to produce innovators and critical thinkers….

Pro: 93% of studies on student testing, including the use of large-scale and high-stakes standardized tests, found a “positive effect” on student achievement, according to a peer-reviewed, 100-year analysis of testing research completed in 2011 by testing scholar Richard P. Phelps

Con: Standardized testing has not improved student achievement. After No Child Left Behind (NCLB) passed in 2002, the US slipped from 18th in the world in math on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to 31st place in 2009, with a similar drop in science and no change in reading. A May 26, 2011, National Research Council report found no evidence test-based incentive programs are working: “Despite using them for several decades, policymakers and educators do not yet know how to use test-based incentives to consistently generate positive effects on achievement and to improve education.”

Pro: Standardized tests are reliable and objective measures of student achievement. Without them, policy makers would have to rely on tests scored by individual schools and teachers who have a vested interest in producing favorable results. Multiple-choice tests, in particular, are graded by machine and therefore are not subject to human subjectivity or bias

Con:  Standardized tests are an unreliable measure of student performance. A 2001 study published by the Brookings Institution found that 50-80% of year-over-year test score improvements were temporary and “caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning…”

Pro:  20 countries studied “have achieved significant, sustained, and widespread gains” on national and international assessments had used “proficiency targets for each school” and “frequent, standardized testing to monitor system progress,” according to a Nov. 2010 report by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.

Con:  Standardized tests are unfair and discriminatory against non English speakers and students with special needs. English language learners take tests in English before they have mastered the language. Special education students take the same tests as other children, receiving few of the accommodations usually provided to them as part of their Individualized Education Plans (IEP).

Pro:  Standardized tests are inclusive and non-discriminatory because they ensure content is equivalent for all students. Former Washington, DC, schools chancellor Michelle Rhee argues that using alternate tests for minorities or exempting children with disabilities would be unfair to those students: “You can’t separate them, and to try to do so creates two, unequal systems, one with accountability and one without it. This is a civil rights issue.”

Con:  Standardized tests measure only a small portion of what makes education meaningful. According to late education researcher Gerald W. Bracey, PhD, qualities that standardized tests cannot measure include “creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity.”

Pro:  China has along tradition of standardized testing and leads the world in educational achievement. China displaced Finland as number one in reading, math, and science when Shanghai debuted on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings in 2009. Despite calls for a reduction in standardized testing, China’s testing regimen remains firmly in place. Chester E. Finn, Jr., Chairman of the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K–12 Education, predicts that Chinese cities will top the PISA charts for the next several decades.

Con:  “Teaching to the test” is replacing good teaching practices with “drill n’ kill” rote learning. A five-year University of Maryland study completed in 2007 found “the pressure teachers were feeling to ‘teach to the test'” since NCLB was leading to “declines in teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments, and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum.

Pro:  Standardized tests are not narrowing the curriculum, rather they are focusing it on important basic skills all students need to master. According to a study in the Oct. 28, 2005, issue of the peer-reviewed Education Policy Analysis Archives, teachers in four Minnesota school districts said standardized testing had a positive impact, improving the quality of the curriculum while raising student achievement

Con:  Instruction time is being consumed by monotonous test preparation. Some schools allocate more than a quarter of the year’s instruction to test prep. [Kozol] After New York City’s reading and math scores plunged in 2010, many schools imposed extra measures to avoid being shut down, including daily two and a half hour prep sessions and test practice on vacation days.  On Sep. 11, 2002, students at Monterey High School in Lubbock, TX, were prevented from discussing the first anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks because they were too busy with standardized test preparation

Pro:  Most teachers acknowledge the importance of standardized tests and do not feel their teaching has been compromised. In a 2009 Scholastic/Gates Foundation survey, 81% of US public school teachers said state-required standardized tests were at least “somewhat important” as a measure of students’ academic achievement, and 27% said they were “very important ” or “absolutely essential.” 73% of teachers surveyed in a Mar. 2002 Public Agenda study said they “have not neglected regular teaching duties for test preparation.”

Con:  The billion dollar testing industry is notorious for making costly and time-consuming scoring errors. NCS Pearson, which has a $254 million contract to administer Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test, delivered the 2010 results more than a month late and their accuracy was challenged by over half the state’s superintendents. After errors and distribution problems in 2004-2005, Hawaii replaced test publisher Harcourt with American Institutes for Research, but the latter had to re-grade 98,000 tests after students received scores for submitting blank test booklets..

That was just a few.. One can see the rest of them here…. 

But here is the point of where I was going…. This site lists all its sources….  For example here are those in the Pro column. McKinsey & Company;  Michelle Rhee;  Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K–12 Education;  US Department of Education; Education Policy Analysis Archives; Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll ; University of Arkansas; Public Agenda; Scholastic/Gates Foundation ; Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

And the Cons….

National Research Council;  Brookings Institution; Gerald W. Bracey, PhD;  University of Maryland; Center on Education Policy; Journal of Human Resources; education researcher Gregory J. Cizek; Texas Education Agency; College of William & Mary; Stanford University; USA Today; Annenberg Institute for School Reform; Arizona State University…

Almost exclusively, the sources for all the pro argument towards using standard testing, came from companies heavily invested in the testing system.  Or Careerists making money being hauled from city to city to promote the corporate method of education. The Con’s tend to be almost all independent sources who have nothing to gain or lose from their assessment…

As for anti-Reformists, I saw zero reports from those groups hostile to the privatization of education. There were no anti- charter groups, no representatives from current employees or unions.  There were no Tea Party organizers against common core.

Which brings up this.  Following the passage of NCLB on Jan. 8, 2002, annual state spending on standardized tests rose from $423 million to almost $1.1 billion in 2008 (a 160% increase compared to a 19.22% increase in inflation over the same period), according to the Pew Center on the States.  As of 2012 that number is $1.7 billion dollars per year, or one quarter of one percent of all k-12 funding according to the Brookings Institute.

The District of Columbia spends the most on its assessments per student—$114—of the 45 jurisdictions measured, followed by Hawaii, Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, and Massachusetts.

Now I’m relatively new compared to the evolution of the species, but in my short time on this planet I have learned that if someone will greatly benefit from telling me a lie, I am probably going to be getting one. Likewise if someone is really being hurt, they are probably telling the truth about it. But most of all, if someone has no concern other than curiosity, they are probably going to give you an unvarnished assessment.

Just keep that in mind, that since No Child Left Behind has implemented standard testing, that industry has grown from making under half a billion to 1.7 billion dollars each year. That is 1.2 billion that goes away if we decide our current reforms aren’t doing the trick… They have a lot of reason to do what it takes, say what needs said, to create the illusion that they are indispensable for our children’s welfare.

Btw. That 1.2 billion is coming out of all those other programs that used to make schools so wonderful for our children. They are gone, because of testing…

What do you think?

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