Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 8/8.3.1

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Arielle Jones

The Effects of Standardized Testing on School Curriculum

Studies show that intensive supervision of instructors “plays a key role in promoting student achievement” (Glanz, 23).

I. Introduction

How do you know when a child has mastered a subject matter? Is it when the child can regurgitate the information on a test formulated by the teacher, or is it when the child can apply the knowledge learned to a broader test such as the SAT? These are the questions that one must consider when determining the usefulness of standardized tests. As the title suggests, standardized testing refers to the use of a standard test on a given subject matter that is dispensed and scored in a uniform manner. Whether it is the No Child Left Behind initiative at the federal level or the Virginia Standards of Learning at the state level, testing has become an important measure in establishing what students have learned in their school curriculum. School curriculum plays a major part in what information a child will learn in the classroom. When shaping school curriculum one must consider many aspects of learning such as the teacher, coursework, textbook, work sheets, lesson plans, and grading guide. All of these factors come together as a means of teaching children new information. A standardized test serves as a means of determining if this information has been successfully retained by the student. The importance placed on these test determine how the results will be used. For the purpose of this paper the focus will be on the effects that standardized testing has on school curriculum.

II. Positive Influence of Standardized Testing on Curriculum

Supporters of standardized tests note that there are several positive aspects of testing students in a uniform manner. Since school curriculum plays such an important role in a child’s learning, there has to be a way to hold the creators and facilitators of the curriculum accountable. The idea of accountability establishes a sense of responsibility to those that participate in the learning process (Guifgoyle, 5). This includes teachers, students, administrators, and the school system as a whole. In theory if everyone effectively plays his or her part, then the desired outcome of learning will be achieved. For example if the teacher draws up the lesson plan and teaches the information, the teacher gets supplies from the administration, and the students study the material, the students should be able to pass any test on that subject matter. If there is a breakdown at any of those levels then a standard test can determine the cause and hold those accountable. Studies show that intensive supervision of instructors “plays a key role in promoting student achievement” (Glanz, 23). Not only do standardized test hold educators accountable, they also provide data about student strengths and weaknesses. Supporters of standardized tests argue that the tests help determine if students are “internalizing the information presented” (Fisher, 1). If it is determined by the tests that students are not learning the specified information then steps can be taken to rectify the situation. For example the United States Department of Education came to the conclusions that as a nation student in grades 3-8 were behind in mathematics and reading. To resolve the situation legislation was passed which stated that students in grades 3-8 must be tested every year to insure that they are learning the desired material (Guifgoyle, 4). Holes and Gaps on the curriculum can also be identified by standardized tests. Testes offer an inexpensive way to “provide a wealth of information that teacher can use to improve instruction” (Guifgoyle, 5). Standardized test also serve as a “relatively inexpensive way provide visible results” (Camacho, 4).

III. Concerns of Standardized Testing

While Standardized test have many good qualities there are still those that oppose the idea of having standardized tests. One such argument centers on narrowing school curriculums to the test. Both educators and parents have raised the issued of “test based teaching” (American Federation of Teachers, 10). By focusing on only on what will be on the test students miss out on the opportunity to gain a broad body of knowledge. Just because a certain subject matter is not on a test does not mean that that information is not important. Research also suggests that narrowing the curriculum would eliminate challenging coursework. By limiting challenging coursework, students will be ill prepared for the future. Students need to learn more than information on a particular test. Students need to focus on the concept knowledge so that it can be called upon later on in life. Not only do students need to understand the concepts learned in a classroom for a test (American Federation of Teachers, 10). They must be able to apply that knowledge. Along with narrowing the curriculum, tests also cater to certain subjects. When tests focus mainly on a few subjects, the test does not fully measure what a child has learned. The arts are a good example of the kinds of courses that are ignored by standardized tests. Standardized tests can also yield results that are not always accurate. For example, after the first year of a standardized test, test scores seem to go up, giving impression that students are learning more. The reality may be that teachers are “re aligning their lessons and curriculum to better match test objectives” (Camacho, 4). Not only do administrators and teachers feel the pressure of test taking, but students also feel a tremendous amount of pressure to perform. With students being subject to numerous tests at the state and local levels, students may feel test fatigue. Standardized tests can also be disproportionately unfair to minorities. There are many socio economic factors that effect test scores. For example, studies showed that there is a “disparity in standardized mathematic test scores between Mexican-origin and White students” (Morales, 350). School districts that are in low income areas are at a disadvantage when it comes to preparing schools. They may lack the resources to compete with other schools.

IV. Standardized Testing effects on Preparation for College and Work

While standardized tests may have its strengths and weaknesses, but the question remains how will standardized tests help prepare students for life post secondary education. In today’s technology driven society we rely heavily on “quantitative proof that our public schools are meeting the expectations of the stakeholders” (Camacho, 3). Instead of focusing on just one standardized test many schools are shifting their curriculum focus to college preparedness. This is the case for the Poway Unified School District in California which has “adopted the goal of preparing all students for college” (Camacho, 9). While the school district continues to use standardized testing to measure the achievements of its students, the curriculum is not based on the standardized test. The Poway district asserts that if the goal is to prepare students for college then the “instructional program should be designed backwards from this goal” (Camacho, 9). Whether the intended path is college or entering the workforce, each school district must adopt a successful path for students to be “prepared to reach their intended goal” (Camacho, 11).

V. Conclusion

In his article, "Testing: The Good, The Bad, and It Could Get Ugly!" Professor Ronald A. Berk discusses the pros and cons to standardized testing. Mr. Berk is a professor and Assistant Dean for Teaching in the school of Nursing at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He points out that there are an equal amount of negative and positive aspects to the common standardized type of testing, to any testing really. However, as with many aspects of life, our education system will never be able to satisfy everyone. Some people will always see the bad in certain parts of education while others will be more willing to accept change. Mr. Berk shows his audience this exact theory. “It is impossible to please everyone.” The fact is, standardized testing has shown its benefits, which seem to weigh out its complaints. In any case, the best interest of the students should be considered. Whether one supports or opposes the use of standardized tests the ultimate goal is to effectively educate students so that they become successful adults. For good or for bad, test results generate media attention. This media attention can in turn be used to shine a light on problems facing school curriculums. While it is beneficial to point out these problems it is also important to solve them in an effective manner. In an ideal situation tests would be used to promote the learning process instead of driving it.

Application Questions

1. If I were presenting a presentation for the school board in favor of standardized testing, which point would not aide in my argument?

A. Testing holds teachers accountable

B. Testing narrows curriculum

C. Testing points out student strengths and weaknesses

D. Identify gaps in curriculum

2. If a minority groups performs less than average on a standardized test this is an example of?

A. Disparity among minorities

B. Gaps in Curriculum

C. Increased accountability

D. Equality among ethnic group testing

3. If I were going to the state legislature to present a proposal for a new state standardized test, which state test would I site as an example?

A. The Virginia SOL

B. The ACT

C. The SAT

D. The GRE

4. Sally has just entered the third grade; she has to take a federally mandated test in mathematics and reading under which initiative?

A. The Virginia SOL

B. The Iowa Test of Basic Skills

C. No Child Left Behind

D. The Child Equality Act

5. Fourth grade students in a school district perform poorly on a standardized test in social studies. What would the test tell the school district?

A. A problem with the teacher's

B. Curriculum Gap

C. There is no problem

D. A need for more parental involvement

Answers: 1. B 2. A 3. A 4. C 5. B

Works Cited

American Federation of Teachers. June 2003. “Where We Stand: Standards – Based Assessment and Accountability” Educational Issued Department. Item Number 39-0246. 1-32

Camacho, Dawn. Cook, Vickie. “Standardized Testing: Does it Measure Preparation for College and Work? “ Spring 2007 Essays in Education, Vol. 20 p1-13.

Fisher Bradley J., Myer, James A., Pear Peggy S.” Students Perception of the Value of a Self-Study Writing Assignment”. Journal of Instructional Psychology. Vol. 34 No 4, 234-241.

Glanz, Jeffrey; Shulman, Vivian; Sullivan, Susan. “Impact of Instructional Supervision and Student Achievement: Can We Make the Connection”. Online Submission, Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) (Chicago, IL, Apr 13, 2007). 2007 28 Page1-28.

Guifgoyle, Christy. NCLB: Is Their Life” November 2006. Educational Leadership1-7.

Morales, M. Cristina; Saenz, Rogelio. 2007 “Correlates of Mexican American Students' Standardized Test Scores: An Integrated Model Approach Hispanic”. Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Vol. l29 No.3 p349-365.

Berk, Ronald A. "Testing: The Good, The Bad, and It Could Get Ugly!" Accessed on April 26, 2008.

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