Standardized Testing: What Does It Really Measure?

You enter the classroom slowly and quietly, feeling a rush of adrenaline as you take each heavy step. You sit on an ordinary wooden desk; the surface feels as cold as ice. The teacher then reads a set of instructions in a monotonous, robotic voice.

As soon as she is done, she passes out the test booklets and answer sheets. The students begin testing as the door to the classroom squeaks closed. There is a mad scramble in your head to finish as many questions as possible in the given time. Approximately six weeks later, you receive your results. You have incredibly high scores! While looking at the scores, your mom casually asks you what you think you have really learned this year.

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You think of a lot of facts, words, and phrases you have memorized, but can’t concretely define what you have really learnt. Then you ponder, “my STAR results were pretty good, so I must have learned a lot.” The truth is: STAR or any other standardized test for that matter does not prove how good of a student you are. All over the country, students take state regulated standardized test, the results then used as a yardstick to measure academic readiness. The question is: can important values and lessons taught throughout the school year be measured with such tests? In my opinion, these tests have their own place in the present education system.

The results of such testing should be kept in perspective. They are needed to measure the readiness level of students, but they certainly cannot measure the intellectual or academic ability of the students. Skills, such as teamwork, leadership, owning responsibility, effective communication skills, knowledge of world cultures, etc. cannot be measured with a mere test booklet and pencil. The grading system can never tell if the student lucked out by guessing, or has just copied down what he/she remembers from the facts that were memorized the night before.

Even the most intelligent students may underperform due to stress or anxiety. Learning is all about understanding, analyzing, creating, evaluating, and applying. It is about forming opinions, coming to conclusions, and discussing ideas with other students. Innovation and creativity are the hallmark of the American economy and have kept us ahead of the competition for many years. Standardized testing certainly cannot measure the student’s capability to apply such important skills. Evaluation of other skills throughout the school year should also be emphasized and given due importance.

Our students should be encouraged to think outside the box, create, and innovate.