Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Info about standardized tests

I have been asked many times if I will allow my own children to write optional standardized testing, which in our province we call Provincial Achievement Tests. Before I make a decision, here is some information about standardized exams.

First I would like to discuss the Evidence around standardized testing.

- The effectiveness of standardized testing as a means of improving education has been widely questioned and critiqued in the relevant research literature. Standardized assessments have not been demonstrated to improve teaching or learning in any significant manner (Hout & Elliott, 2011).

- Standardized assessments provide one-time snapshots that do not accurately measure how a student performs day after day and they are, by their very nature, summative, rather than formative. Teachers who perform regular assessments daily are best positioned to evaluate how a student is performing vis-a-vis curricular outcomes (Davies, Herbst, & Reynolds, 2008; Harris, Smith, & Harris, 2011; WNCP, 2006).
- Standardized testing diverts teaching time and monetary resources away from student supports, teachable moments and direct teacher-student contact time (Kohn, 2000, 2011; Sahlberg, 2011).
- Provinces including Alberta and British Columbia (Steffenhagen, 2012), as well as several American states (Bryant, 2013), including more than 600 schools in Texas alone (VASS News, 2012), are scaling back from standardized testing, opting instead for the less pedagogically harmful and less costly random sampling.
- Standardized tests are often culturally biased against those for whom English is an additional language, and have been demonstrated to be more reflective of depressed socio-economic neighbourhood conditions (Abedi, 2010; Sawa & Bouvier, 2010; VASS News, 2012), than the quality of teaching or learning of teachers and students.
- The results of standardized tests when published in newspapers carry negative side effects, including a significant drop in student and teacher morale (Paris & Urdan, 2000).
- The Finnish "fear-free" school system that eschews competition, failure, and standardized testing regularly tops the 34 countries tested by OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment and several provinces who have mandatory standardized testing perform less well than Saskatchewan on the same PISA tests (OECD, 2010).
- Many children experience increased anxiety as the standardized testing date gets closer and especially upon testing days (Gail Jones, Jones, & Hargrove, 2003; Segool, 2009).
- Standardized testing runs counter to the ministry's stated goal to improve retention and graduation of aboriginal students, since these tests often serve to further marginalize and push out students who are already vulnerable (Crandall & Kutz, 2011).
Next, I haven't found one, single, research based, reason to support using standardized testing before grade 7.

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