You are on page 1of 11

Nguyen 1

Uy Nguyen

Professor Hilliard

ENGL101-BL03

4-20-14

Classical Argument Paper FINAL Draft

Qualifying the Standardized Tests

What is the one thing students hate most about going to school? What is the one thing
that students stress out about the most? The answer is the high-stake standardized tests.
Standardized testing is designed to challenge the students knowledge on the course material and
measure the students academic performance. The questions on standardized tests vary from
simple multiple choice questions to short written responses to complex written essays. The use of
standardized tests have grown over the years. Teachers and educators in general base academic
performance on the scores the students receive on their tests, and the scores determine which
courses will be available to the student during their current year and for future years. There are
debates on whether standardized tests are good or bad for student education. Some people argue
that the school education system is at fault and not the standardized tests. There are debates
where the structure of standardized tests should be reformed because the tests are not accurately
measuring the students knowledge. Furthermore, there are debates where standardized tests are
not beneficial and more detrimental to student learning and should be removed from the school
system entirely.
Many scholars, teachers, professors and administrators argue that standardized testing is
beneficial and its an accurate tool to measure academic performance in student learning. The
educators believe that standardized tests are accurate tools to measure academic performance
Nguyen 2
because the tests are created to challenge the students on the course material taught in class.
These tests are designed to test the students knowledge by getting students to apply the
information learned in class to the questions on their tests. However, there are just as many
people who argue that standardized tests hinder student learning and theyre inaccurate tools in
measuring the students knowledge. People such as students, parents and even some educators
argue that standardized tests are detrimental to student learning because the students are being
taught to pass a test.
In this paper, the benefits and consequences of standardized tests will be explored and
analyzed. The primary focus will be on the flaws of standardized tests while recognizing the
importance of standardized testing in the education system. To define and establish an existing
problem with standardized tests using popular sources such as opinion articles, videos and blogs
from teachers, educators, test makers and students. The problem being that standardized tests are
not as useful as some would think. The paper will analyze the multiple views on standardized
testing using scholarly articles. There are writers who defend standardized tests, some who argue
against the tests and some who will qualify that the tests have good intentions but are not as
effective as they should be. The primary audience is not students in general but specifically high
school students because high school students are the ones taking standardized tests such as the
SATs which is one of the primary factors colleges look at to determine whether to accept or
reject the student and which courses will be available to the student or not. Standardized testing
is not useful because the tests do not accurately measure the students academic performance and
the weak test structure does not truly test the students knowledge.
Even though the usage of standardized tests has increased, there has been little
improvement in the structure of the tests. There has been little evaluation on how effective the
Nguyen 3
tests truly are in student learning. Educators just hand out the tests to the students and the
students take them without question. That is, until the students, parents and even some educators
started to question if standardized tests really are beneficial to the students education or the
standardized tests are just a shallow, simple way to represent the intelligence of every single
student in America. In her blog, The Answer Sheet, education reporter, Valerie Strauss
interviews social studies teacher, Ron Maggiano. The argument is that the classroom is
transitioning from academic freedom to locked standardized testing. (Strauss 11) He asserts the
current high-stake tests deprive students from creative and imaginative thinking. Think about it.
When students were younger, the students had more freedom on their assignments. For example,
students in elementary school have the freedom to be creative on their English and Art
assignments. Elementary school students could write stories and draw whatever came to their
mind. Maggiano is saying is that as children, students had the freedom to be creative with their
writing, their drawings and their school projects. Now in later years such as high school, the
students have assignments with specific requirements. In English, all high school students would
have to write essays answering specific questions. Maggiano states the classroom has become
intellectual deserts where students arent allowed to use their imagination. (Strauss 10)
Academic freedom has turned to locked standardized testing. Multiple-choice tests are replacing
critical thinking and analytical skills with simple memorization problems. Students have to learn
specific subjects such as Math and English and students are more like robots now. The students
are just learning to pass a test. Every day the students learn so that when the test day comes, the
students are prepared to answer the questions on the test. Maggiano ends his interview saying
life is not a multiple-choice test, and the answers to lifes most important questions are not
A,B,C or D! (Strauss 14) The classroom is not reality. The answers in life are not multiple
Nguyen 4
choice problems. There will be more than one right answer. Standardized testing is a real big
issue because students are losing their academic freedom and their critical thinking and
analytical skills are dropping.
There has been a great increase in using standardized tests in recent years. The fact that
standardized tests are still being used in todays society shows how important the tests are in
measuring academic performance. Standardized tests such as the SATs and ACTs are the most
convenient way to get a general idea on the students knowledge and predict the students future
academic performance. As mentioned earlier, the scores the students receive on such
standardized tests are one of the major factors colleges look at for college applicants. Without
standardized tests, how would colleges be able to determine the academic performance of
graduating high school students? Taking out the standardized tests such as the SATs would make
admittance harder for colleges. Not all schools have the same education standards. Looking at
GPAs alone would not accurately determine the students academic performance. In his
scholarly article, Standardized Testing for Outcome Assessment: Analysis of the Educational
Testing Systems MBA Tests, Robert E. Wright identifies two driving factors to the use of
standardized tests; the No Child Left Behind legislation and the increase need of assessment
scores. (Wright 1) One particular standardized test Wright looks at is the Education Testing
Service. Its an assessment tool in business colleges and it suggests that its standardized test
measures overall knowledge in basic areas of core MBA subjects. In Wrights article, he states
that the tests distributed by MBA are the most understandable and realistic compared to other
tests. Their tests involves scenarios and situations and the student must answer the question
based on diagrams, graphs and statistical data. Based on Wrights article, MBA standardized
tests provide more realistic multiple choice questions than other tests where the questions will
Nguyen 5
never be seen in real life. Standardized tests can be used to assess the teachers performance as
well. ETS scores can be used for outcomes assessment. Faculty spend an entire semester with
students, talk with them, discuss material with them, and have multiple measures of their
learning. (Wright 8) The faculty or specifically the teachers prepare the students to take the tests.
So there is a direct effect to how students perform on their tests to how the teachers are evaluated
on their teaching skills in the classroom. Without standardized tests, how would students and
teachers be evaluated for their performance? If there were no standardized tests, distinguishing
the good teachers from the bad teachers would be harder. So standardized tests are important
because the tests plays many roles for students and teachers. Therefore, not all standardized tests
should be seen as useless or bad because some can be useful.
Standardized testing can be seen as a useful tool to support student learning. The tests are
to measure the students knowledge on the material taught by the teachers in the classroom. In
Linda Crockers scholarly article, Teaching for the Test: How and Why Test Preparation Is
Appropriate, she explores the purpose of the teacher teaching in the classroom. There are people
who oppose standardized testing and argue that the students are just learning to pass a test. That
students do not actually learn the material. However, that is not the case. Crocker emphasizes
how the sole reason teachers are hired is to prepare students with the knowledge to be tested in
some format; whether the testing format is written essays, multiple choice or short written
responses. (Crocker 3) The teachers take mandatory instruction lessons to get students ready for
their exams. Without tests and exams, how would schools know that students are actually
learning? Standardized testing can truly be useful when students are prepared with the right
sources. The first thing students need is an efficient and challenging curriculum. A course that
can challenge the student, stimulate their minds and still cover the material thatll be on the test
Nguyen 6
while including extra material. Second, students need a teacher with effective instructional skills.
Crocker asserts that to have students prepared for the tests, students need a mix of beneficial
curriculum alignment and measurement driven instruction. (Crocker 21) Generally speaking,
teaching students from a curriculum that can be linked with challenging content and helping
them develop test taking skills is good instructional practice for teachers and good preparation
for students taking their tests. (Crocker 34) The right teaching methods with the right teachers
can make all the difference for students taking the standardized tests. Yet, there are still people
that oppose standardized testing and see them as useless tools that hinder student learning and
they are a waste of time and money.
If standardized tests truly are useless, then why do schools still use them to assess the
students knowledge? Standardized tests are not entirely at fault and that the structure of the
tests, the school system and current teaching methods are affecting the usefulness of standardized
tests. The standardized tests are just tools to assess the students academic performance. The
people who use the tool effectively deem the tool as useful. On the other hand, the tool can be
seen as useless if not used correctly. In this case, standardized tests are potentially useful in
testing the students knowledge. However, with the schools adapting weak education standards
and ineffective teaching methods in class, the importance of standardized tests is dwindling.
Teachers and professors have a major influence on student performance on tests. They are the
ones who teach the material so that students are able to pass their exams. Thomas L. Good,
explores and analyzes relationship between effective teaching and how well the students perform
on their exams in his article, What Do We Know About How Teachers Influence Student
Performance on Standardized Tests: And Why Do we Know so Little About Other Student
Outcomes? Teachers play a vital role in a students education. To support how important
Nguyen 7
teachers are, Good provides a study he and Grouws had on teachers. Their findings included
teachers providing review over the course material for the student and lessons developed to
promote student understanding on the material through discussions and practice. Standardized
tests not only show how well the student knows the course material but also plays a role in
evaluating the teachers performance in the classroom. So standardized tests are not perfect tools
to measure academic performance, but standardized testing is potentially useful that will
ultimately lead to the improvement of school districts, teachers, and student learning.
A common counter narrative to standardized tests being beneficial to student learning is
that standardized tests do not accurately measure the students knowledge. Not all students
perform well on tests. One other counter narrative to standardized tests being good and beneficial
to student learning is that students are not truly learning in the classroom anymore. In chairman
of the National Academies, Norman Augustines article, Heres why schools need standardized
testing, the article identifies three major points that standardized tests are detrimental to student
learning. First, students are not actually learning the material and instead the students are
learning to pass a test. (Augustine 4) The students can just memorize the information just for the
test and after taking the test the students are likely going to forget the information and move on.
Second, the standardized tests are corrupting the school system. (Augustine 7) For example, in
his article, Augustine explains how teachers and administrators in the Atlanta public school
system fixed the students scores to avoid sanctions and secure performance-based bonuses.
(Augustine 7) Students are taught to pass a test, to get good scores, to better represent the school
and to ensure school benefits. Looks like the school system cares more about money than
teaching the students. Third and final is that the high stake tests are pressuring the students. The
tests affect the students educational future. (Augustine 9) Doing poorly on these tests can hold
Nguyen 8
the student back from taking advance classes or even graduating. The tests determine which
classes the students may or may not take in future years. So with all the pressure, the students are
going to go as far as cheating to get good scores on their exams.
Another counter narrative is that the weak structure of the tests and the questions on the
tests do not stimulate the students critical thinking and analytical skills. Taylor Lannamann, a
Lewis and Clark College senior, analyzes the reasons students should say no to standardized
testing in her article, A Student Says No to Standardized Testing. Lannamann argues how the
schools are wasting their time and money on standardized tests and how America can accept
diversity in culture and ethnicity, but not in education. (Lannamann 1) She says, Will
memorizing the quadratic formula help me prove my ability to craft narrative? (Lannamann 5)
Standardized tests measure the students knowledge on a variety of subjects, but is it really
necessary for a student to be proficient in every school subject? A high school student thinking
about a college major could decide an English major and only needs to focus on classes that
involve English. So why is the student required to take other classes like math when there is no
math involved in writing? Is it necessary for a History professor to know Calculus to teach
history? Is it necessary for a Math professor to know chemistry to teach math? In his blog, Do
Multiple Choice Questions Pass the Test? freelance writer Jason Koebler, questions the
structure of standardized tests. The question being, are multiple choice exams the best way to test
students knowledge? (Koebler 1) A lot of standardized tests use multiple choice problems.
Within Koeblers article, he quotes from public education director of FairTests, Robert
Schaeffer. Schaeffer says, multiple choice tests are easy to design, trial, score and revise. You
often see previously used questions with components changed. (qtd. in Koebler 4) Basically,
multiple choice questions are simple, and easy to manipulate. There is no leniency in the right
Nguyen 9
answer because there will only be one right answer in a multiple choice question. The reason
why multiple choice are dominant is because of federal and state government costs. (Koebler 4)
While standardized tests are the most frequently used tool to measure academic performance, the
tests are not the best way to determine the students knowledge on the course material taught in
class.
Some students are poor test takers, but that does not mean that the student does not know
the material. In her article, The Standardized Testing Debate: The Good, the Bad, and the Very
Ugly, veteran teacher, Mella Baxter, explores the debate on standardized testing. She agrees
that not all students are efficient test takers by remarking that, some students are brilliant
thinkers, but poor test takers. (Baxter 5) Some students may have test anxiety and some may
just be unprepared. Doing well on these tests do not always show that the student actually knows
the course material. In Lesage and Co.s article, Scoring Methods for Multiple Choice
Assessment in Higher Education Is it still a Matter of Number Right Scoring or Negative
Marking?, they qualify the grading methods for standardized multiple choice tests. A student
may do well on an exam and not know any of the material on the exam. The article analyzes one
particular scoring method for multiple choice tests which is the retrospective correcting for
guessing format. (Lesage et al. 10) Basically, if the student does not know the answer then the
student is required to guess for each question they do not know. Even if they do not know the
correct answer, guessing gives a better chance of getting the right answer and increase the
students score than not answer at all. So some students can do well on the exam and not know
anything on the subject because of the weak structured multiple choice questions. So
standardized tests are not so beneficial because students can simply guess and get the answer
Nguyen 10
correct. Thus standardized tests are hindering critical thinking and analytical skills with simple
multiple choice questions that students may or may not know the answer to.
The reason for this paper is to establish how significant standardized tests really are in
student education. Standardized testing is a convenient tool for teachers and administrators to test
the students knowledge and how well the student performs in school. The paper explores the
factors to the debate on standardized tests. Factors that are discussed on the issue of standardized
tests are the weak test structure, the tests not accurately measuring the students academic
performance and standardized tests being detrimental to critical thinking and analyzing skills.
Even though standardized tests are the most frequently used tool to measure academic
performance, the tests are not as useful as they should be because of the weak and simple-
minded questions the test makers design for students. The tests should be reformed so that the
tests are challenging the students to think and analyze critically. However, with little to no action
to change the standardized tests, the standardized tests are standardized tests are weak, inaccurate
tools to measure academic performance and are detrimental to student learning.


















Nguyen 11
Works Cited

Augustine, Norman. Heres why schools need standardized testing. Bangor Daily News. BDN
Maine Education. 03 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Baxter, Mella. The Standardized Testing Debate: The Good, the Bad, and the Very Ugly.
takepart.com. 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 01 Mar. 2014

Crocker, Linda. Teaching For the Test: How and Why Test Preparation Is Appropriate:
Defending Standardized Testing. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005. Print.

Good, Thomas. What Do We Know About How Teachers Influence Student Performance on
Standardized Tests: And Why Do we Know so Little About Other Student Outcomes? Teachers
College Record 116 (2014): 1-41. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Mar. 2014

Koebler, Jason. Do Multiple Choice Questions Pass the Test? High School Notes. U.S News
28 Nov. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Lannamann, Taylor. A Student Says No to Standardized Testing. The Conversation, The
Chronicle of Higher Education. 30 Sept. 2013. Web. 07 Mar. 2014.

Lesage and Co. Scoring Methods for Multiple Choice Assessment in Higher Education Is it
Still a Matter of Number Right Scoring or Negative Marking? 39 (2013): 188-193. Academic
Search Premier. Web. 19 Mar. 2014

Pearson North America. How Standardized Tests Are Created For Your Child. YouTube.
YouTube. 19 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Mar. 2014

Phelps, Richard. Defending Standardized Testing. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,
2005. Print.

Popham, James. Why Standardized Tests Dont Measure Educational Quality. ASCD. Mar.
1999. Web. 01 Mar. 2014

Strauss, Valerie. Life is Not a Multiple Choice Test. The Answer Sheet. The Washington Post
24 June 2013. Web. 01 Mar. 2014

The Editorial Board. New Yorks Common Core Test Scores. The Opinion Pages. The New
York Times. 07 Aug. 2013. Web. 24. Feb.2014

Wright, Robert. Standardized Testing for Outcome Assessment: Analysis of the Educational
Testing Systems MBA Tests. 44 (2010): 143-147. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Mar.
2014