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Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing

Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing

9 May, 2016

Standardized testing is a highly controversial and well-argued topic.

Many people think that standardized testing gives a precise measurement of student performance and teacher effectiveness. Other people believe that a single test on a single day cannot consistently gauge these things and that the practice is already overused. No matter which side of the debate you stand on, the practice of standardized testing will continue to be deliberated and debated. Both sides of the standardized testing debate have passionate arguments.


  1. Standardized testing holds teachers and schools responsible. Probably the greatest advantage of standardized testing is that educators and schools are accountable for teaching students what they need to know for these standardized tests. This is mostly because these scores become public record, and teachers and schools who don’t perform up to par can come under intense examination. This scrutiny can lead to the loss of job and in some cases, a school can be closed or taken over by the state.
  2. Standardized testing lets students located in various schools, districts, and even states to be compared. Without standardized testing, this comparison would impossible. Public school students in the state of Texasare all required to take the same state standardized tests. This means that a student in Amarillo can be compared to a student in Dallas. Being able to accurately analyze data is invaluable and is a primary reason that the Common Core State Standards have been adopted in many states. These will permit a more accurate comparison between states.
  3. Standardized testing is naturally accompanied by a set of established standards or instructional framework which provide teachers with guidance for what and when something needs to be taught. Without this structure a third-grade teacher and a sixth-grade teacher could be teaching the same content. Having this guidance also keeps students who move from one school district to another from being behind or ahead their new school.
  4. Standardized tests are objective in nature. Classroom grades given by a teacher are at the very least minimally subjective in nature. Standardized tests are often scored by computers or at the very least scored by people who do not directly know the student. They are also developed by experts, and each question go through an intense process to remove bias.
  5. Standardized tests provide precise comparisons between sub-groups. These sub-groups can include data on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, special needs, etc. This gives schools with data to develop programs and services directed at improving scores in these sub-groups.


  1. Standardized testing assesses a student’s performance on one particular day and does not consider external factors. Many people simply do not perform well on tests. Many of these students are smart and understand the content, but it doesn’t reflect on the test. Many students also develop test anxietywhich hinders performance. Finally, there are so many external factors that play into test performance. If a student has an argument with their parents the morning of the test, chances are their focus isn’t going to be where it should be.
  2. Standardized testing causes many teachersto only “teach to the tests”. This practice can deter a student’s overall learning potential. With the stakes getting higher and higher for teachers, this practice will only continue to increase. The sad reality is that it fosters an atmosphere that is boring and lacks creativeness. Teachers have such pressure to get their students ready for these exams that they forget to teach students skills that go beyond the tests.
  3. Standardized testing only evaluates the individual performance of the student rather than the overall growth of that student over the course of the year. Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)only concentrates on whether a student is proficient at the time of testing. This does a disservice to both the teacher who worked hard to help their students grow and the student who worked extremely hard over the course of the year and greatly improved but failed to score proficient. Many would claim that teacher and student performance should be evaluated on growth over the course of the year instead of one single test performance.
  4. Standardized testing can give a lot of stress for both educators and students. Excellent teachers quit the profession every day because of how much stress is on them to prepare students to perform on standardized tests. Students especially feel the pressure when there is something meaningful tied to them. In Oklahoma, high school students are required to pass four standardized tests in various areas, or they do not earn a diploma, even if their GPA was a 4.00. The stress this can cause on a teenager is not healthy in any way.
  5. Standardized testing can be wrongfully used as fuel for those with political agendas. This is a sad truth far too often across all levels of the political realm. Education is a hot political topic and rightfully so, but the center of this debate is often standardized test scores. The truth is that standardized test scores are often looked at as the end all for student and school success, and it shouldn’t be that way. Many would argue that those politicians who try and use standardized test scores as a way to further political agenda are ignorant in their knowledge of what education and learning are truly about.