The Pros of Standardized Testing

Predicting Future Success:

Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT have been shown to be effective in predicting a student's future performance in higher education, in the military, and in the work force. Almost two-thirds of U.S. colleges take SAT scores into account for their applicants. The standardized SAT or ACT create a common national measure that college admissions counselors rate as "a more reliable measure than high school grade point average, extracurricular activities, recommendations, essays, etc." If SAT tests were not effective in predicting the future performance of students, why would the majority of colleges in this country require them?

Eliminating the SATs would result in unintended, negative consequences. A University of California study found that if the University did not require SAT scores from prospective students, they would have to raise their standard high school GPA to unrealistic expectations just to balance out the admissions process.

Some critics also target AP (Advanced Placement) Exams. At most high schools, students have the option to take one or more of these specialized tests after spending a year or two in an intensive class about the material. Topics range from American History to Biology to Art. Many colleges award credits to a student with a score of a 3 (out of 5) or better. The credits may count toward a core requirement, which allows the student to have a more flexible schedule and take a class they may not have been able to fit otherwise. A high score on an AP exam may also save money: an $80 exam compared to a $2000+ college course.

Making Better Students and Better Teachers:

Standardized testing provides students with better feedback about their own level of knowledge and skills. It also helps students to associate personal effort with rewards and motivates them to work harder in school. The testing and its feedback send clearer signals to students about what they need to study.

Standardized testing motivates teachers to work harder and more effectively. They can better identify areas of strength and weakness in their teaching plans and then can restructure them. They can also identify what content was not mastered by students and see which students have the greatest needs. Teachers will be more motivated to participate in professional development and support services to improve their instruction.

There is also evidence to suggest that the practice of standardized testing promotes "the development of mentoring relationships between teachers and students." Changes can be seen in the attitudes among staff, as well. Testing promotes greater cohesion among teachers,an openness to new ideas, and esprit de corps. The establishment of a link between teacher performance and student learning is essential to effective schools in America.

 

Providing Accountabilty:

Accountability has been a buzz word for the past few years since No Child Left Behind, a bill that aims to reform education by improving academic standards, with goals such as: holding states more accountable for results, creating greater flexibility at the state and local levels, expanding options and choice for parents, emphasizing teacher quality and effective teaching methods, and confirming states' progress.  

Accountability at the school level will encourage positive changes such as the revision of district curriculum and testing programs so that they become consistent with state curricula. It also leads districts and schools to use their resources more effectively, for example by hiring more qualified teachers and providing after-school tutoring sessions. Results from standardized tests can help reallocate funds to schools who performed well and deserve a reward, and to those schools most in need.

Furthermore, though its cost is not inconsequential, testing is less expensive than many other reform options. Also, since public education is supported by tax dollars, shouldn't the public have a right to know how its schools are performing?

The system of standardized testing may not be perfect, but it's an effective approach that will ultimately lead to the improvement of school districts, teachers, and student learning.

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® Copyright 2005 Colette Kemmerling 95-2