The problem lies in the fact that NCLB is often used in a punitive fashion, even against schools that are making an effort and showing improvement. Without some humanization and an appeals process, the use of standardized testing can be a blunt instrument in the hands of legislators.
Questions about the unfairness of other standardized measurements and assessments such as the SAT are also rife because of the negative impact they can and have had on students' lives. Theoretically, the SAT is supposed to give colleges information about how students will perform in college, and flag students from easier schools with high GPAs who still struggle with basic skills. But there are questions about the fairness and accuracy of the SAT, despite many recent revisions, including the introduction of an essay portion. Women and African-Americans and members of other minority groups continue to show stronger undergraduate performances than would be predicted by their SAT scores, compared with their white male counterparts (SAT race, gender gaps increase, 2003, Fair Test). New revisions to the test have not substantially improved this (Schaeffer & Mermell 2008).
The way that the SAT makers grade the test for reliability "predictably, consistently, and reliably yields questions that favor whites dramatically over other subgroups...the explanation comes from the way that designers of the SAT -- and of many other standardized tests -- define reliability. A reliable question that is intended to be difficult, for instance, is one on which those who score highest overall consistently do well, and on which those with low scores consistently do poorly...Therefore, the highest achievers among test takers set the standard, and questions on which they do well look more statistically reliable than those on which they do poorly, even though some minority students may score higher on those questions" (Young 2003).
Given such questions about the validity of the SAT, more and more colleges are allowing prospective students to opt out of the SAT, and provide a graded paper instead as proof of the rigor of their coursework in high school and their ability to engage in critical thinking. Some students feel that using more qualitative means rather than quantitative means of assessing students decreases the chance of bias influencing the acceptance process, and that it allows more student control over the process of how he or she will be fairly assessed.
Even if the SAT becomes less important in the future and NCLB is reformed, it is unlikely that standardized assessment will ever completely end. However, benchmarks must be placed in a human context, and for students with alternative learning needs, standardized assessment may have less usefulness and value, given that these student's education often has a more idiosyncratic path. Regardless, at all levels where measurement plays a critical aspect of student placement, there must be a delicate balance between parental and student decision-making regarding the efficacy of such tests in painting a picture of their learning and the need to establish a benchmark or baseline of achievement
Moravcik, Meghan E. (2006, July 8). Horne sues education department. Arizona Republic.
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Multiple choice tests. (2009). Engineers for education. Retrieved on January 10, 2009 at http://www.engines4ed.org/hyperbook/nodes/NODE-66-pg.html
Problems with standardized tests Engineers for education. Retrieved on January 10, 2009 at http://www.engines4ed.org/hyperbook/nodes/NODE-69-pg.html
SAT race, gender gaps increase. (2003, October). Fair Test. Retrieved on January 10, 2009 at http://www.fairtest.org/sat-race-gender-gaps-increase
Schaeffer, Bob. (2006, July 7). Feds threaten most states with NCLB funding loss. AP Wire.
Retrieved from Interversity on January 10, 2009 at http://www.interversity.org/lists/arn-l/archives/Jul2006/msg00011.html
Schaeffer, Robert & Jesse Mermell. (2008, June 17) FairTest reacts to the "New" SAT validity studies. Fair Test. Retrieved on January 10, 2009 at http://www.fairtest.org/fairtest-reacts-new-sat-validity-studies
Young, Jeffrey R. (2003, October 10). "Researchers Charge Racial Bias on the SAT."
The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved on January 10, 2009 at http://faculty.adams.edu/~tpmcneil/rcg/researchers_charge_bias_on_the_sats.pdf