Getting On My Soapbox: Standardized Testing

I recently read Annie Murphy Paul’s article in Time titled Relax, It’s Only a Test. Below is the comment I posted on her blog citing the same article.

Thank you for writing about this topic Annie. I have shared your posts often with my educator colleagues.

As I read, some questions came to mind:
– Why are we administering exams that create anxiety in the first place? Do the benefits outweigh the effects? Who benefits?
– How much learning time is lost with the addition of these interventions to reduce anxiety? (Learning time is already reduced due to standardized tests.)
– Even if we can mitigate the anxiety created by these tests, are we getting a truly valid and reliable measure of what our students know and are able to do?
– A multitude of studies show a positive correlation with formative assessment and improved student learning (see: McTighe, Wiggins, Guskey, Fisher, Wiliams, Marzano). What would happen if the 1.6 billion dollars were reallocated toward using formative assessment as our preferred method of measuring student learning?
– How might these distant, standardized tests negatively affect relationships and trust between the teacher and their students?

I know that this is not the focus of what you wrote and I don’t expect you or anyone to change the current testing climate any time soon. I am just curious about your broader perspective regarding high stakes testing as a whole.

When I hear about how we can help our students better manage their anxiety in response to high stakes testing, I believe we miss a more important point: Why are we doing this in the first place?