- The U.S. assesses students with standardized tests more often than other countries, but this drive to gather data — as well as a lack of performance tasks and writing prompts — often comes with trade-offs, including higher costs, lower-quality tests, and a poor sense of what skills students need for college and a career, Education Week reports.
- While other countries have high-stakes tests that drive individual educational decisions, American tests are designed to reveal more about schools and school districts and are an inadequate measure of school quality, the article says. Linking student achievement and school quality can be problematic; a high-performing student doesn't necessarily indicate a high-performing school, or vice-versa.
- The major advantage of the U.S. testing system is that it provides comparative information for different demographic groups, which is important for discussions about equity in schools.
While tests in many other countries are high-stakes propositions for students, in the U.S., they are high-stakes propositions for teachers and schools. Standardized test scores matter little to students in the context of their classroom experience, because they rarely affect their progress in schools. If anything, standardized test results may limit their choices for colleges and universities, but they don't keep these students from earning a four-year degree. And studies have shown that low-stakes testing can result in students "goofing off" and earning scores that don't accurately reflect their abilities.
For teachers, the high-stakes nature of tests can affect the way they teach. Some feel forced to teach to the test, spending less time on subjects and topics that may be of more use to their students. Schools and school districts are also labeled by the results of these tests, though test performance reflects only a small part of their overall accomplishments.
It may be time to rethink what tests actually accomplish and whether standardized tests are actually harming education. While the production of data has a role in education, making assessments more student-driven than data-driven could be beneficial. And under the new Every Student Succeeds Act guidelines, there may be room in that direction.