Testing Debate: Should We Teach Term Paper

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The debate surrounding standardized testing is one in which nearly all stakeholders have a definite and emphatic opinion. This is discussion in which everyone has strong feelings either in support of or against this type of 'teaching to the test' and one in which all of the varied responses are all of a strong nature. This work reports the conduction of a literature review study of the various reasons given in support of those who are both for and those against standardized state testing even though the writer of this work does have an opinion to voice in the ongoing debate regarding standardized testing.


The No Child Left Behind Act and the accompany standardized testing has stifled teachers in the classroom from being able to use their skills in teaching students and has instead placed stringent testing standards ahead of learning and the result has been that many children are in actuality left behind which can be directly attributed to standardized testing.


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The agenda of President George Bush for nationwide testing of testing the arguments for and against this testing are heard from teachers, politicians, parents, business leaders and many other sectors of society. Those who support this type of testing cite the money being spent on school improvement and the necessity of a method of ensuring that this money is being well spent and that students are learning what they should be learning. However, those who are against the test take the position that too much time is being spent by teachers on 'teaching to the test' or preparing students to successfully take and pass the tests. The work entitled: "Pros and Cons of No Child Left Behind: What the Research Says" relates that it appears that arguments for and against standardized testing "often seem to cancel each other out in the debate..." (National Educational Newsletter, 2007) This debate has become more heated among policy makers and researchers since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 was signed into law on January 8, 2002, by President Bush.

Term Paper on Testing Debate: Should We Teach to the Assignment


Arguments for standardized testing include the argument that the assessment-driven reform "is needed to counter declining trends in SAT and ACT scores and the mediocre performance of U.S. students in international ratings such as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS)..." (National Educational Newsletter, 2007) Assessment-driven reform is believed to influence school curriculum reform positively and when tests are carefully design to be consistent with the kinds of learning desired in the classroom if tests are carefully designed to be consistent with the kinds of learning desired in the classroom and if there is a tight connection between cognitive learning theory, the curriculum, classroom activities and assessment items." (National Educational Newsletter, 2007)

Many believe that it is "desirable to agree on a common core of knowledge that teachers should teach and students should learn." (National Educational Newsletter, 2007) the belief is that in the absence of common standards there is no method that can be utilized in making a comparison of grades "across teachers and schools because of local norms." (National Educational Newsletter, 2007) Those who support standardized testing hold that this is the best alternative for making comparisons of the performance of students "across different education systems because human judgment is error-prone." (Educational Newsletter, 2007) Standardized testing is held to be a method of testing that enables evidence of outcomes that is "more objective and less ambiguous." (Educational Newsletter, 2007)

In a Denver Business Journal report entitled: "Defending Standardized Tests" it is stated that "we all need to know what state-mandated standards mean to public education in Colorado and specifically to the Denver Public Schools..." And goes on to relate that the release of test scores in November of the previous year had "really hit the mark in making us aware that these newly legislated educational standards are for real." (White and Miskowitz, 1998)

The reason that White and Miskowitz hold that standardized testing is important is stated as follows:

The state test, on the other hand, is not a normed test. It measures a student's performance against a set of agreed-upon academic standards. There is no sliding scale with this test. It doesn't matter how well our fourth-graders did compared to students in Glenwood Springs or Fort Collins or Aurora. The intent of this test is to see if DPS students can demonstrate a command of an essential core of knowledge and skills. Students have to meet these grade-level content standards to be considered academically proficient." (1998)

So therefore, these authors do have a valid point in their understanding of the need to recognize that it is necessary to "identify the body of knowledge and skills that our children must learn." (1998)


One argument that has been stated against standardized testing is that while SAT scores "declined during the 1970s and 1980s because more students aspired to go to college and took the tests..." And because there was an upward trends "in the 1990s and into the 2000s, there has been great improvement shown in many areas of education including dropout rates as well as increasingly more students taking advanced course as well as advanced placement examination. Standardized tests are held by many to "undervalue the 'sensitive interaction between teachers and their students in the complex, social system of the classroom." (Educational Newsletter, 2007)

It is believed by many that the actual problem is one characterized by "the fundamental misdesign of schools, lack of qualified teachers and the instability of families and communities." (Educational Newsletter, 2007) it is held by those against standardized testing that the imposition of standards on the mind of the student results in deprivation of the student's "fundamental intellectual freedom by applying one standard set of knowledge." (Educational Newsletter, 2007) the belief is held that standardized testing results in the oversimplification of knowledge and that it fails in testing higher-order thinking skills. Furthermore, "important learning outcomes are not measured by standards testing. Only self-generated professional responsibility can sustain fundamental school and student improvement." (Educational Newsletter, 2007)

Additionally standardized testing is no more than a measurement of socioeconomic status of students and little reflects the quality of teaching of one teacher in that testing scores are a reflection of the entire life experience of the student. The failure of standardized testing can be attributed to the accompanying failure to provide differentiated instruction, which is a necessity in light of the different learning needs of students. It is related in one report that "the behaviorist theory underlying high-stakes accountability oversimplifies how human behavior is conditioned by rewards and punishments." (Educational Newsletter, 2007)

Fundamental to the criticism of standardized high-stakes testing and accountability is the reliance on extrinsic motivation and this "...at the expense of intrinsic motivation." (Educational Newsletter, 2007) Negative consequences of high-stake standardized testing includes "...higher dropout rats, lower motivation, teaching to the test, unethical test preparation..." (Educational Newsletter, 2007) Additionally, while gains have been made these have been the focus of discreditation due to "test-polluting practices such as excluding students or higher dropout rates." (Educational Newsletter, 2007)

Amrein and Berliner (2002) report the analysis conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) relating to outcomes of high-stakes testing and ACT, SAT, and AP test results with high school graduation examines. The study relates having assessed whether academic achievement has improved since the introduction of high-stakes testing policies in the 27 states with the highest stakes written into their grade 1-8 testing policies: Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia." (Amrein and Berliner, 2002)

The method of assessment utilized in this study is one in which NAEP scores were used in examination of whether academic achievement increased after high-stakes were attached to tests in grades 1-8 if academic achievement did not change after stakes were attached to a state test or if achievement decreased, the effectiveness of the high-stakes policy as a means of improving student performance must be called into question." (Amrein and Berliner, 2002)

The study reports findings and conclusions that relates "...inadequate evidence to support the proposition that high-stakes tests and high school graduation exams increase student achievement." (Amrein and Berliner, 2002) Scores were noted in the study findings to "go up or down in a random pattern." (Amrein and Berliner, 2002)

Most importantly, this study states findings that following the implementation of exams for high school graduation "achievement apparently decreases." (Amrein and Berliner, 2002) Amrein and Berliner relate that the analyses conducted in the study "suggest that high-stakes tests and high school graduation exams may tend to inhibit the academic achievement of students, not foster their academic growth."(2002) Figure 1 as follows in this work lists evidence derived from the analyses in this study upholding these findings.

Source: Amrein and Berliner (2002)


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