Educators have griped about it before, and we’ll gripe about it again: standardized testing isn’t the best method to measure the intellectual abilities and growth of all students. There are too many factors to consider when it comes to emotional and intellectual intelligence that cannot be measured by a simple standardized test. Unfortunately, these standardized tests have become, well, standard.
But does it have to be that way?
Not necessarily, especially when you consider the facts. The United States leads every other country in the amount of standardized tests to which our students are subjected. Despite increased testing, students continue to perform worse year after year when compared to their peers around the globe. Just take a look at Finnish students, for instance, who outperform the world but don’t face the stress of high-stakes testing! And Finnish students aren’t alone. There are many nations that forego performance assessments to incredible results.
So what’s their secret?
It’s the responsibility of teachers and parents alike to maintain a finely tuned autonomy to analyze and address their students’ needs. By understanding how each child is progressing, weaknesses can be addressed and strengths enhanced. Fortunately, more and more school systems across the United States are concerned with standardized testing and its psychological implications in the educational process. Alternatives to standardized testing that are being explored include:
Portable portfolios. One of the most beneficial aspects of a portfolio is that it allows schools, parents, professionals, and students to see actual work that the student has done. Portfolios can be used to specifically measure growth, development, and current level of performance. The only downside is that there is no “true” non-objective form of measurement when it comes to analyzing portable portfolios. Compared to multiple-choice tests, where right is right and wrong is wrong, portfolios are subject to differing opinions.
Benchmarks. Several schools across the nation are experimenting with “digital badges.” Once a student reaches a specific benchmark in the learning process, then he or she receives a digital badge. The badges that the Boy Scouts earn for mastering a skill inspired the idea. Similar to earning credentialing, the argument for digital badges says that it teaches students real-life values at an early age.
Tape recorded sessions. There’s been increasing discussion about recording samples of students’ oral reading and their responses to questions and discussions concerning the reading passage. This would allow analysis on reading ability, comprehension, thinking process, and other academic considerations.
Regardless, the fact remains that there is still an open debate as to the merits of standardized testing. While a uniform system of measurement may not be going anywhere any time soon, it’s vital for educators and parents to stay tuned to the growth and development of their students. To learn more, visit this article by Bob Peterson and Monty Neill or see how states are exploring this issue.