Who really benefits from Standardized Testing?

SILENCE …. That is what you hear if you say “I really don’t think we need all this student testing — I really not sure how it benefits students or schools?”   Just the notion that maybe we should simply STOP abruptly all the student standardized testing is like suggesting to a group of hunters to stop hunting.  Especially if you say this in front of the business community or even school administrators.

But once you blurt this out and they realize your serious the barrage of questions start.  They cock their heads to the side and begin quizzing you as if you lost your mind.  How would be compare schools? How would we compare kids?  How would we compare teachers?  We could never get teachers to work with each other without testing what would motivate them?  How would parents know how well the school is doing?  What about the report card?  You know there has to be measurements of progress right? Your not serious right?

And this is only some of the questions — because we have built and entire system on results of test and testing.  It permeates almost everything we do, every decision, every purchase, every strategic plan, almost everything.  We justify all of this on the loose notion that all of this testing improves outcomes for kids.  The focus should be on the education of the youth no doubt — but the idea that standardized test will help them is almost ridiculous.  It goes counter to learning theories.  It is not the most efficient or effective way to identify gaps in instruction.  Often the results for individual students are ignored because we focus on the aggregate. More often than not the results of the standardized test come so late that those kids have new teachers.  It does not improve understanding.  It is simply a measure for something else.

I have come to the conclusion that standardized testing has nothing to do with kids whatsoever!  I know shocking!  It has everything to do with adults,  multi-million dollar testing companies and quite frankly protecting the status quo.  Study after study has determined that standardized test really measure socioeconomic status not intelligence, not potential, not teacher effectiveness, not our rank in the world, not the school and certainly not the effectiveness of administrators.  Yet we insist on using these measures to create commentary on all of those things standardized test don’t measure well if at all.

We are subjected to yearly to the “box score” ranking and sorting of districts in every state of the union with those scoring well hanging banners while those that did poorly promise to change something to try and get better on a measure they have little or no impact upon.  Countless people are in jobs with titles like “director of school improvement” or “regional SIP coaches.” Then we have committees devoted to improving those scores — teacher level teams, building level teams, central office teams and more and more and more time, energy and money devoted to testing.  We buy supplemental materials, new textbooks, practice test, computer software to track kids, software to crunch data and of course we hire additional people to work with those not doing well on standardized test.  We hire experts to teach teachers what they can do to raise scores, teach kids how to take test, and how to gain some advantage to improve scores.

We spend a ton of money — 1.7 Billion — on preparing  kids for testing that is completely outside the fundamental mission of why we send kids to school in the first place.

I like many other parents simply want what’s best for my children.  All parents want the same thing. They want the school to help their child reach there highest potential intellectually.  Give them a well-rounded education that prepares them for the world we live in today.  Prepare them for life that is full of challenges and adversity and finally help them become economically independent.  If these are the goals all parents hope for their children, I am hard pressed to understand how standardized test help advance these basic goals of school or schooling?


About James Herrholtz

Consultant, Teacher, Coach, Administrator for over 23 years. I have been a superintendent of schools, College Instructor, and worked at the Ohio Department of Education heading up the Division of Learning.
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