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Summary of article by Roberta Munoz from Education.com
High Stakes Testing Pros and Cons
Roberta Munoz’s article reviews the practice that is now happening in all states after the passage of No Child Left Behind Act 2001. This law requires that students must pass standardized tests to either be promoted to the next grade or graduate from high school. There have been many opinions stated by both educators and parents in this regard. Student achievement is measured. High school students cannot receive a diploma or graduate on time if they have not passed these standardized assessments.
Not only can students be retained or refused graduation, but these tests and their results are misunderstood by parents and communities. Frustration occurs within districts, campuses, teachers, and students alike.
Ms. Munoz refers to Mike Haykin, the Director of Learning Support at Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, as believing that “standardized tests are neither good or evil”. He stated that pressures are felt by all. The article notes that the tests’ premise was to track progress of academics to better assist in their learning. Also, Mr. Haykin’s opinion is that these tests are the not the end all to measuring achievement or intelligence. In fact, the article says that they merely assess how well students take tests, and if students have been taught test taking skills.
She notes in her article that these mandated tests can help teacher with their curriculum and can be utilized as a progress of student learning.
It is further explained that because the results are public record, parents can compare schools as to the progress students are making. Thus, parents can make choices about which school their child might attend.
Ms. Munoz’s article admits that these “high stake exams” can cause concerns. However, she also discusses that periodic testing throughout the year can help students perform better and learn how to adapt to the pressures of taking the required test.
On the other hand, issues are evident showing the negative concerns of this type of testing. She stated in her article that the creative side of learning has been neglected. Surveys done also show that many schools are not only neglecting the arts, and history- if not on the testing schedule, but are totally leaving them out of the curriculum in some grade levels. By doing so, schools are spending an overabundance amount of time on strictly testing subjects. This is more prevalent in elementary grades rather than secondary.
Pressure on teachers can clamp down on creativity and innovation. Thanks to pressure from the government, teachers often feel compelled to "teach to the test," resulting in less flexibility to tailor lesson plans to individual students or class groups. Less freedom and innovation can also mean unhappier teachers and higher classroom turnover.
Some teachers feel so put upon to get scores higher for students that they are just “teaching to the test”. The general feeling experienced by such teachers can spread to the students. This results in high turnover in teacher contracts.
Students feel unmotivated to learn beyond what is required. Pressure cannot be beneficial if not connected to learning.
Ms. Munoz’s article concludes that “in the end a test is just a test”. She encourages parents to learn about the pros and cons of their students testing. In doing so, she suggests that parents be active and involved in the student’s education.
To substantiate standardized testing, it is noted that it is a valid way to compare data. In this manner, a varied education population can obtain information regarding student achievement in a short period of time.
The most notable positive effect is that such testing allows educators and schools to see what is being taught and learned as required. These records of testing are open to public viewing and thereby hold schools accountable for student progress. Even closure of low performing schools can happen, as well a loss of jobs where students are not performing as expected.
Comparisons within a district, region and throughout a state can occur. He cites the example of the state of Texas where schools can be compared from any given area.
Curriculum is used to determine standards tested. Mr. Meador notes that is the reason why many states adopted the same Common Core State Standards in relation to testing to better analyze the objectives taught. Thus it is implied that standardized assessments can improve curriculum.
By having the established standards, teachers are able to better prepare for testing and concise lesson development. This enables the school to use target tests to gradually measure progress over short periods of time.
The development of state standardized tests has become detailed so that computers can score the tests without bias. Testing item banks are developed and reviewed for validity, content, and reliability. The test can be utilized over time without change.
The system data can be seen by criteria necessary for improvement within a school or district. Most all the data shows special populations, ethnicity, at-risk, and economic status of the students assessed. The results are then used by educators for program analysis and interventions.The article states that those against standardized testing feel that educators are basing too much emphasis on the scores and test preparation.
It is noted that students may suffer what is called test anxiety and not do well on state assessments even though the students are high achievers in class. Mr. Meadows says that many outside factors can go against a student’s test results such as home life, health conditions and primary language boundaries. Standardized testing does not take these issues into account.
Those who oppose the mandated standardized tests also refer to teachers focusing strictly on tested material thus leaving out other vital content. The article says that creativity becomes stifled and can lessen learning outcomes. This is generally called “teaching to the test.”
Due to the fact that standardized tests are only given once a year, opponents feel that it is not a valid measurement of progress. Those supporting non-standardized tests are more in favor of continual progress tests throughout the year instead.
The issue of stress on both the part of the teacher and the student is also of great concern, as well. Many educators can lose their positions if the students do not measure up to the passing rates of the school, district, or state. In terms of students, poor results can result in not receiving a high school diploma or being held back. Admittance to colleges can also be based on these results.
The article gives the example that in Oklahoma, high schools students cannot graduate if they have not passed four standardized tests prior to graduation--regardless of their GPA.
The author of this article also believes that politics are involved in pushing schools perform at higher levels on standardized tests. He states that competition for funding comes from these scores. He believes that schools giving rankings of “low-performing” are targeted whether they are public or charter schools.
The article shows both the positive and negative impact of state mandated standardized testing.
August 4, 2015
Pros and Cons
NYLN, Youth Leader Blog posted High Stakes Testing Pros and Cons List, regarding the pros and cons of high stakes testing. The following is a summary of that article. In this article both sides of the argument are addressed.
The article explains that in schools “high stakes testing” is used for accountability of teachers, students, and districts. Based on the scores, schools are given recognition or put on improvement lists. Such sanctions can cause failure for student to be promoted, graduate, and even possible state takeover of the school or school closure. Many believe that this is an important factor in education while others oppose the outcomes.
The article's Pros and Cons are listed below.
1. Those in favor of the high stakes testing note that minority and special needs students who are neglected in schools have better chances with testing. They believe that the assessment system encourages students, teachers and students to improve teaching and learning thereby benefiting all students.
2. The article goes on to state that the testing holds teachers accountable and can be used in pay raises. It notes that this can be an inspiration for teachers to improve and become more effective.
3. Supporters of this assessment system also claim that the data from high stakes testing can pinpoint areas of need and improvement. This will assist the school system, campus or class to evaluate and improve the content being taught and manner of delivery.
4. Proponents of high stakes testing also stand by the premise that students will take more interest in their learning. By having promotion/retention and graduation outcomes based on scores from tests, students will try harder and take their education more seriously.
1. Those who are against high stakes assessments refer to the negative outcomes related to student scores and penalties. Due to the fact that retention is being used as a punishment for those not meeting standards, opponents feel the testing does more harm than good. Students may feel that they will never succeed, thus leading to higher drop-out rates in high school, poor attendance and the reduction of number of high school graduates.
2. The article also notes that those opposing testing of this kind because of the increase in possibilities of “cheating” during or after the tests. Many are affected by such behavior and true test validation does not occur.
3. High stakes testing can be detrimental to curriculum. According to the author, teachers will place too much importance on test areas of instruction. In doing so, there may be gaps in learning and students will not have a complete content of instruction given to them.
The article acknowledges that there is a need to know the results of assessments in order to improve education. It is also stated that the issue remains debatable due to the negative consequences of such assessments.Source cite as 2015 NYLN.org
Those against such testing have far different opinions. They feel that the tests result in “teaching to the test”.
In reviewing the paper, the following are some of the noted pros and cons that were found.
Pros for Standardized Testing
1. A peer review done by Richard P. Phelps, noted that 93% of studies prove that assessments make a positive effect on scores relative to achievement.
2. The assessments are a valid and objective way to measure achievement. The manner in which they are given and scored eliminates bias from teachers.
3. Districts, schools, and campuses can see gains on standards that are generally used throughout the nation.
4. The tests do not discriminate and have the curriculum needed for all students, thus improving the curriculum.
5. The article states that although critics may disagree, “teaching to the test” ensures that important material is taught and students can focus on the material they need to learn. They cite the USDE from 2004 to confirm that if standards are taught, students will excel on the test and retain more of the material.
6. By teaching the mandated standards and objectives, students can remain focused on the basic skills they need to retain. The article notes that in four Minnesota schools, teachers were pleased with results of students’ success on assessments. They felt that the standards helped improve the curriculum. (Education Policy Analysis Archives, Oct. 2005)
7. In another study, it was noted that good teachers would not just teach to the test, nor would their principals allow that. The article states that teaching the curriculum with use of the test data helps to improve achievement.
8. According to the Associated Press- NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll in 2013, the article notes that 75% of parents believed in the benefits of standardized testing in the child’s results, 69% believed it showed the school’s performance and 93% felt it helped to identify areas of weakness/improvement.
9. Testing is expected at schools and therefore not a cause of stress, as noted by the article. It cited the USDE, "Although testing may be stressful for some students, testing is a normal and expected way of assessing what students have learned."
10. According to this article, those supporting standardized testing, in a survey done by Scholastic/Gates Foundation, noted teachers felt in 2009 that state mandated tests were “..important”, or “..essential.”
Cons Against Standardized Testing
1. Those opposing standardized testing use results from Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) from 18th place in 2002 to 31st place in 2009 since the NCLB Act went into effect. Another noted report from the NRC said that “no evidence test-based incentive programs are working..”
2. Those against standardized testing proclaim that the tests discriminate against special populations. This includes those students who have not yet mastered the English language and those students who are given accommodations, but those are not relevant to the students’ needs.
3. Anti-standardized assessment supporters feel that the tests do not measure critical thinking skills and other attributes related to creative though. The article author’s opinion notes that due to this, qualities needed for a productive life such as motivation, leadership, compassion and integrity are not measured with these tests.
4. The idea of “teaching to the test” inhibits best practices and ends up with teachers neglecting extended learning for students. The source cites information from a study by University of Maryland that noted since the initiation of NCBL “cognitive content in the curriculum” was being neglected by teachers.
5. On another negative side, too much time is used in schools to prepare for the mandated tests.
6. One study done at New Mexico’s Valley High School, Aug. 2004, noted that high school students “had fun” during testing by just filling in patterns on the answer sheets. They were even to have been known to make answer sheets in shapes such as, “Christmas trees”, and “battleships”. Thus, showing that the tests were not considered relevant to the students.
7. Some states have even lowered the % of passing rates to skew the data.
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