Standardized Tests Fail in Measuring Students’ Intelligence

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Heather Barker

Students are often given bubble sheets to do standardized tests which don’t always measure a student’s actual intelligence.

Justin Merritt, Guest Reporter

Nearly every student will take a standardized test at least once throughout their high school career, because these tests are required when applying to a college.

Standardized tests have been part of education since the mid 1800s, but their use skyrocketed after the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was implemented in the early 21st century. Proponents of standardized testing say the tests are a fair and objective measure of student achievement, that they ensure teachers and schools are accountable to taxpayers and that the most relevant constituents – parents and students – approve of testing. However, opponents say the tests are neither fair nor objective, that their use promotes a narrow curriculum and a drill-like “teaching to test” method, and that excessive testing undermines America’s ability to produce innovators and critical thinkers. Numbers illuminate the fact that standardized tests do not improve student achievement, and should not be used as resources to measure student ability.

Standardized tests have not improved student achievement. After NCLB was implemented in 2001, the U.S. slipped from 18th in the world to 31st place on the Program for International Student Assessment within eight years. Furthermore, a study by the National Research Council reported that, “no evidence was found that test based incentive programs are working.” The claims made by proponents of standardized testing include reports of around 20 school districts with recorded significant and sustained gains on standardized tests. With over 14,000 school districts in the U.S., 20 districts are only 0.1 percent of all the districts in the U.S., a fraction when considering the total amount.

According to late education researcher Gerald W. Bracey, PhD, qualities that standardized tests cannot measure include, “creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-discipline, leadership and integrity.” Standardized tests only measure a student’s test taking abilities, while omitting the more important essential life lessons.

However, both sides of the argument must be considered. Without standardized tests, policy makers would have to rely on tests scored by individual schools and teachers who have a vested interest in producing favorable results. Multiple-choice tests, in particular, are graded by machine and therefore are not subject to human subjectivity or bias.

The stress standardized tests cause in students is perhaps the most important factor in determining whether they should still be used. According to education researcher Gregory J. Cizek, “testing produces gripping anxiety in even the brightest students, in any level of education.” On Mar. 14, 2002, the Sacramento Bee reported that test-related jitters, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes with instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it.

Although there must be some way to measure a nation’s ability, the method of standardized testing is outdated and in need of remodeling. The teaching of a nation’s children is too important to be left unmonitored; therefore, educators need to produce valid evidence regarding their effectiveness, but standardized tests are the wrong tools for the task.