Are you one of the many students who cram in hours upon hours of studying the night before an exam that has been stressing you out all week? You wake up the next morning nervous and full of anxiety, just to take the same test as everyone else, under the same conditions as everyone else. Sounds fair right? Well I don’t believe it is, and here’s why. Standardized tests were made to test the knowledge of a student over a particular course or subject. The ACT and SAT, for example, are composed of four multiple choice sections usually including math, english, science and reading.
Well here’s the funny thing, everyone is different. Some students thrive at written tests where some students fail. Some students are better at presentations where other students are not. Because of the differences in student’s ability to learn and retain information caused by many different teaching methods and criteria covered, standardized testing has become an unreliable way to measure a student’s knowledge and should be replaced by other means such as using e-portfolios or performance based assessment.
Some of the main problems with standardized tests such as the ACT or the SAT include trying to accurately measure a student’s knowledge over a particular set of subjects and a phenomenon involving teachers called “teaching the test”. In a 2013 speech to the American Educational Research Association, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said “State assessments in mathematics and English often fail to capture the full spectrum of what students know and can do,” he said. “Students, parents, and educators know there is much more to a sound education than picking the right answer on a multiple-choice question” (Evans).
I completely agree with Arne Duncan on this matter. On a typical standardized test you have about a twenty five percent chance of getting the answer right. Potentially, you could have a student who does not know the material at all, but could guess right on more than half the answers and get credit for it. Being a student who has taken the ACT more than once, I can honestly say I feel like the ACT was a poor representation of my knowledge over the subjects tested on.
Now with the phenomenon called “teaching the test” which is where teachers center their curricula around state tests, students become subject only to material that will be found on the test. This not only causes teachers to lack creativity within the teaching of the course, but also causes students to become limited to learning test taking skills. Even though standardized testing can be harmful to student’s creativity, there are some alternatives to this problem. One alternative to standardized testing, relating to the SAT and ACT, would be the use of electronic portfolios or e-portfolios.
Terrel Rhodes, vice president for quality, curriculum, and assessment at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) says that “E-portfolios provide a means for collecting assigned work, as well as students’ accomplishments in non-classroom settings, so that faculty, internship supervisors, and others can assess it and aggregate or disaggregate the results, depending on the purposes of the assessment” (1). Basically e-portfolios would be a collection of student’s individual work throughout the year, organized into a folder that the teacher would have access to at all times.
This folder would help the teacher view how each and every student learns and give an overview on how much each student took away from the course, what not to teach in the following years and what to cover more heavily. This alternative is more effective and personal than a standardized multiple choice test because it gives the teacher a chance to personally view how each individual student is progressing throughout the year. In terms of college admissions, if your portfolio was shared with the colleges of your choice, it would allow college admissions to see your progress throughout the year.
So instead of just seeing an ACT test score that a student could have potentially guessed on for more than half the answers, they would be able to see a portfolio showing how well equipped and prepared for college the student is. It would be a great way of telling if the student would be a good fit for their program or not. Given the knowledge at hand, I believe e-portfolios would be a great alternative to standardized testing. Another alternative to standardized testing is performance based assessment.
“Performance assessments measure skills such as the ability to integrate knowledge across disciplines, contribute to the work of a group, and develop a plan of action when confronted with a new situation” (Brudali). This differs from standardized testing in the fact that teachers focus more on the process of learning, where standardized testing focuses on the product. Instead of using tests that are multiple choice that require a student to choose the one correct answer, performance based assessment often times uses
group projects, hands-on projects, essays and verbal presentations to determine a student’s knowledge and skills over a particular set of subjects. Another advantage to performance assessment is that “Performance assessments provide teachers with more information about the learning needs of their students and enable them to modify their methods to meet these needs” (Wren). Teachers actually try to assess each and every students learning process and direct the class accordingly, letting students take away more from lectures.
Having this type of assessment in high school would benefit students tremendously in college. Having experience with verbal presentations and hands on projects will provide the student a head start with skills you need for college. These skills would be used for interviews, group projects in labs and speeches given throughout the years. Performance based assessment would tremendously benefit and prepare students for college and would be a great alternative to standardized testing. Knowing that there are already proven solutions to standardized testing, let me ask you why you are still taking them?
Studies have clearly proven that standardized testing is an inaccurate and unreliable way to display the knowledge of students. Not only that, studies have also proven that different methods such as e-portfolios and the performance based assessments are a more accurate and effective way of displaying a student’s knowledge over various subjects. So why don’t you take initiative? Join a club like student council, a club where you have a say with what goes on with your school and the decisions being made. Start a petition against standardized testing and let students get involved.
Not only that, let your community get involved. Tell your family and friends about the disadvantages of standardized testing and its inability to measure students’ knowledge. There are many ways you can get involved in your school and community to have a say in the decisions being made with problems such as standardized testing. All you have to do is take initiative and act upon it. With all the knowledge at hand, I truly believe standardized testing is a terrible way to reflect a student’s knowledge and there are many alternatives that can be provided in place of it.