Standardized Tests Lowering the Standards Term Paper

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"One problem with achievement testing is that a few minutes of performance time can end up directing a young child's entire educational career." (Schmitz 1991) When tests are administered to young children that take extended periods of time to complete, such as those which take six to eight hours with only short bathroom breaks, the child's naturally shorter attention span may affect performance on the tests. Many test makers compensate for this by making the tests very short, some only comprised of 20 to 30 questions total, which means that only one or two incorrect responses will seriously affect the grade. "A few unusual answers, a minute of inattention, even the need to go to the bathroom may lower a score from brilliance to mediocrity. " (Schmitz 1991) Standardized testing does not take into account factors such as varying developmental rates among children and testing environments, and the biased nature of the tests is a serious problem.

All major intelligence tests used in this country are based on the experiences of white, middle-class youngsters....Test bias keeps numerous low-income and minority-group children out of "gifted" and "talented" educational programs. Moreover, it fills classes for the "educable mentally retarded" with two to three times more lower-income and minority children than middle-class white children." (Schmitz 1991) student that performs poorly on tests once may never be able to break out of a vicious cycle, as he or she will be placed into the low-ability classes, and therefore learn less, then the student will test poorly again. This student, labeled as inferior, will suffer from self-esteem problems.

In conclusion, there may be a small number of benefits that can be reaped from standardized tests. Unfortunately, most of those benefits have nothing to do with the best interests of our children. These tests track students inappropriately into ability-levels, where students who scored poorly on tests will be "dumbed down."

In some schools students may be held back due to these test results regardless of classroom performance. The methods used to teach children to score well on these tests is actually counterproductive to higher thinking skills, and the limited curriculum that teachers use in test-driven classrooms is less interesting and unrelated to real-life. Standardized tests are used to reproduce class and racial divisions and hierarchies. They are created so that upper class white males will get high scores, and perpetrates the myth that inequality in class is created by differences in intelligence and ability rather than by inequality of treatment. This myth of equal treatment and meritocracy convinces citizens of all classes that the system is ideal, and that their failure or success is due to their own efforts. In truth, this may not be the case. Students are not allowed to see what answers they got wrong on the tests, only an overall score, so this makes it that if their failure was due to racial or classist questions, they cannot analyze this. Additionally, this secrecy prevents students from learning anything from these tests. A very valid concern is raised by one parent:

Should a child's intellect be evaluated against an established norm, some 'standard child'? Should deviance from this norm be interpreted as low ability when there are in fact good reasons from the deviation? Is there any positive value in translating unique and creative thinking patterns into intellectual deficits?...Test bias both reflects and perpetuates social injustice. Tests reflect inequity by insisting on a narrow and limited view of ability or achievement, and they reinforce inequity by assigning low scorers to programs that are less likely to help them develop their abilities. To solve the problem, we must do more than eliminate the misuse of standardized testing; we must eliminate the social biases that condemn some children to both an inferior quality of life and a poor education." (Schmitz 1991)

Standardized tests should be eliminated from our schools.

Works Cited

Neill, M. (1990) Let's Cut Back on Standardized Testing. Mothering, Winter. Retrieved November 11, 2004, at

Schmitz, S. (1991) Achievement Testing - Critique of Standardized Achievement Tests. Mothering, Fall. Retrieved November 11, 2004, at

Additional Reading

Wetzel, B. (2002, November-December) No more tests! Challenging standardized education - Ways of learning. Mothering. Retrieved November 11, 2004, at[continue]

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