Standardized Testing: Pros and Cons
Standardized assessments have value, and their strengths are regulated by how they are created and how they are used to make decisions. Standardized assessment, used as part of a balanced system of assessment can provide valuable data for making institutional and program decisions (American College of Education, 2021). Leadership, policy-makers, and the wider public need large data sets to identify strengths and weaknesses on the institutional, district, national, and even international levels (American College of Education, 2021). Large-scale standardized data provides this crucial information so that these stakeholders can make informed decisions. Research-supported and adaptive standardized testing can provide more information than simply multiple choice questions focused on recall and provide evidence about higher-order thinking strategies. The Global Strategy Stage (GloSS) developed in New Zealand is one such standardized assessment. This assessment provides multiple stakeholder information about what students understand about math and what strategies they use on a mathematics continuum (NYMATHS, 2021). Another well structured standardized assessment is MAP as it is adaptive and provides Reading and Maths questions based on student performance during the exam (nwea, 2021). Furthermore, MAP provides teachers and leadership with a RIT score that details what a student is ready to learn, not just their achievement level (Cordray et al., 2012). This data is more applicable for teacher planning and more useful for making program decisions.
Weaknesses in standardized assessment often relate to the mishandling or misunderstanding of what standardized data can accomplish. Standardized assessment data provides a “snap-shot” on student performance, during one short span of time. Therefore, it may or may not reflect a student`s true ability or understanding. Every student has an off day due to countless environmental or physiological factors. Thus, teachers should use standardized data in conjunction with all other assessment data when making decisions about instructional practice and planning. In this way, standardized assessment is one tool in a balanced system of assessment (Stiggins, 2014). Furthermore, some standardized tests, like MAP, include a RIT scale range that accounts for variables that may negatively affect students` performance and allow for tests to be taken at different times (Cordray et al., 2012). A second weakness of standardized testing is “test anxiety.” Some students experience test anxiety and teachers should take steps to alleviate stress while developing the self-efficacy in students to approach challenges with perseverance (Pellegrino, 2014). A third weakness in standardized testing relates to teacher-perception and “time.” At many schools, teachers complain about the time that standardized testing takes away from instruction and argue that an assessment of learning should not take hours away from instructional time. They argue that the value of the testing data does not match the time spent.
American College of Education. (2021). CI6123: Module 1 [video 1]. Canvas. https://a19 119599390.cluster19.canvas-user content.com/courses/1755327/files/119599390/course%20files/course-content/module-content/01-module/m1-04-video-02.html
Cordray, D., Pion, G., Brandt, C., Molefe, C., Toby. M. (2012). The impact of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) program on student reading achievement. Institute of Educational Sciences: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED537982.pdf
Pellegrino, J.W. (2014). Assessment as a positive influence on 21st century teaching and learning: A systems approach to progress. Psicologia Educativa, 20, 65-77. https://www.elsevier.es/psed
Stiggins, R. (2014). A new vision of assessment excellence. Youtube. https://youtu.be/XHX2jnKNiyw
NZMATHS (2021). GloSS. New Zealand Government. https://nzmaths.co.nz/gloss-forms
nwea. (2021). Map growth. Nwea. https://www.nwea.org/map-growth/