The Myths of Standardized Tests: Why They Don’t Tell You What You Think They Do

The Tests Don’t Predict Well

  • High correlations between different kinds of standardized tests suggests they are half-siblings. There just aren’t studies of the connection between tests and later success. They would be next to impossible to do as they would take 20 years, and the cost would be prohibitive. The diversity of human activities where one can enjoy success is also a problem. What information we have suggests that “nonacademic accomplishments” are better predictors for future accomplishments than grades or test scores. Grades are much better predictors than tests since they often consider more qualities than test scores. In short, the best predictors of future accomplishment are similar accomplishments, and once we leave school, we usually doesn’t have to take tests like the ones we suffered through in school.

New Ideas for Genuine Accountability

  • The authors cite a 2008 work by Richard Rothstein which proposes that assessment efforts need to be more broad. He lists the categories that should be judged: basic knowledge and skills, critical thinking and problem solving, social skills and work ethic, citizenship and community responsibility, appreciation of arts and literature, preparation for skilled work, physical health, and emotional health. While some testing is necessary, other kinds of assessments are needed. He suggests regular and formal school inspections involving extended observations, and interviews of students and teachers. This wouldn’t produce neat numbers, but it would reflect the considered judgement of a trained corps of educators. It is no more subjective than the choice of test content, format, and proficiency levels.

What’s It All About

  • If you ask parents of 3rd grade students what they want their children to be they often say things like confident, kind, and happy. Yet we expect everyone to learn the same things, to the same level, at the same time? What is the point when everyone is unique? Our obsessive focus on academic “achievement” measured by tests has pushed other goals to the back of the bus. Our education system also includes families, other organizations, television, and the Internet. All of these should also be accountable. Their final push is to encourage parents and teachers to have an open line of communication. The authors also include 12 test-related questions that parents should ask teachers along with a resource guide, detailed notes, and a glossary.
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17 Responses to “The Myths of Standardized Tests: Why They Don’t Tell You What You Think They Do

  1. Dr. Don says:

    Every educator, administrator, government bureaucrat, and union leader should be required to read this book, and then tested on it in the same manner that our children are tested today. Better yet, this should probably be a seminar topic for required academic continuing education. Chart 14, “New Ideas for Genuine Accountability” brushes the surface and wets our appetite on a new direction and sounds like it could be the basis for Harris, Smith, and Harris’s next book.

  2. […] Doug Green has an excellent summary of the myths and negative consequences of standardized testingbased on a book on his site: […]

  3. Archangelo says:

    Standardized tests aren’t really meant to measure student achievement, but to provide an excuse to dump teachers.

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