Standardized test policies undergo scrutiny

Every child has unique characteristics and talents, so why are his or her intelligence, talents, and predicted value to society based on their ability to answer some multiple choice, fill in the blank, or essay question on one day?

Standardized tests on federal, state, and district levels are widely used testing as a means to evaluate students and teachers. The “No Child Left Behind” policy, created under the Bush administration, is designed to see if children have reached certain math and reading benchmarks. These tests are administered to most children in third- to eighth- grade across the United States and are used as evaluations of a teacher’s ability to relay specific knowledge to children.

Many students, parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, and countless others see this testing system as narrow and ineffective in improving the American education system. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing in Massachusetts aims to reform this type of evaluation in order to “lessen the high stakes” nature of this system. Lisa Guisband, an assessment reform analyst at NCFOT, believes that the “test and punishment system can be lethal,” Guisbond said.

How children perform on these tests is influenced by a variety of facets, including racial identity and socioeconomic status. In addition to these predisposed conditions, children’s test performance can be influenced by how they are feeling on the test day.

The test also assumes that all children are able to complete the test, and that their score is a reflection on his or her intelligence. The organization NCFOT, according to Guisbond, also believes that test scores should not have such high stakes because they only evaluate children in a narrow, specific way, and do not encapsulate the entirety of the child’s potential.

“It is well known that these fill in the bubble multiple choice tests tend to reward memorization and rote learning, not higher level thinking skills like critical reading and creativity,” Guisbond said.

The organization has succeeded in making standardized testing optional for applications to many colleges across the country. The organization is continuing to work towards reforming the use of standardized tests in hopes of bettering education for all children and reducing evaluations of student and teachers based off of how they perform on such a narrow evaluation.

Katrina Hilton won an Excellent Award at the JEA/NSPA National Convention in Boston for this piece.