It is imperative and utmost essential to take into account the advantages and disadvantages or pros or cons of something to conclude if it is really beneficial or not. Testing at schools has its own share of pros and cons which need to analyzed and looked into keenly first to term it advantageous or disadvantageous. Some of the most important and vital pros and cons of testing at schools are the ones listed.
Pros of Testing at Schools
It makes teachers accountable: The supporters of testing at schools always term it as an significant measure of keeping a check on quality of education imparted to students since it makes teachers and school managements accountable. Probably the greatest benefit of standardized testing is that teachers and schools are responsible for teaching students what they are required to know for the tests in the schools (Meador 2011). This provides the required push for the teachers and school managements to teach their students seriously and also drives students into taking their school education seriously. The students and school managements who/which do not perform or are unable to generate good scores are made to face intense public scrutiny and this could even lead to loss of jobs for the teachers or the schools being shut down because of lack of teaching quality and standards. Thus, testing provides benchmarks not only for students but for teachers and managements also. They are held responsible for the score of the students of their schools and this promotes accountability, transparency and better education.
Improves competition among Students: The second most important benefit that testing at schools offers is that it allows students to be compared with others based on the similar benchmarks and hence check the extent of their earning and growth. Standardized tests provide a standard and common basis for comparing one school to another within the same state and also to compare schools across the state. This helps in maintaining uniformity and coherence, an important feature of good and standard education. This helps in maintaining healthy competition among the students and also helps in finding or zeroing in on the most meritorious and bright students within the state and across states. It also promotes sense of competition between states since schools across states are compared. This forces states to focus on education in their schools so that they are ahead of other states and hence an overall environment and atmosphere for good and motivational learning is promoted.
Better View to Parents: Testing in schools helps parents connect better to their wards’ education and its extent. It gives them an insight into their kids’ performances and the quality of education being imparted by schools. Students get to compare their kids with other students on state or national level. This helps them understand their kids well and also makes them understand the essential steps required for improvement of their kids to do well in their studies and to score good in their tests.
Allows Students to set Goals: It helps students in better understanding their strength and weaknesses and hence allows and empowers them to set important and vital goals for themselves. It inspires them to overcome their inherent weaknesses and chase excellence and hence it promotes a healthy environment of learning. When students have something to strive for, they are much more likely to achieve place-marks that have been set by administration and teachers (Wells 2007). This is an important aspect of testing since it directly affects students and inspires them.
Cons of Testing at Schools
Doesn’t inspire real learning: The detractors of testing at schools often use this argument to puncture the mighty claims of the supporters that testing inspires true learning and a healthy environment for the real education to flourish and prosper. Testing is a “Be-All-End-All” approach that fails to capture the real learning, miserably. These tests are about the student’s on one particular day and fail to take into account various external factors, which could push them into non-performance. Moreover, tests often fail to gauge the extent of practical knowledge in tests. It has been found in several cases that there are a considerable amount of kids or students who have knowledge and understand the content well but are unable to show or display it when it comes to testing. Thus testing is not a just or equitable manner or form of testing students’ knowledge and learning not only because tests are incapable of but also because there are plethora of reasons which does not let kids do well.
Teaching is restricted to Testing: While some argue that testing makes teachers accountable and hence promotes learning, there is a counter-argument, which essentially says teachers often focus on teaching for tests and hence this hinders real learning and education. Though in some cases this could be intentional to be acclaimed for the good performance of their lot of students, but in many cases the pressure for their students to achieve a specific score, by school management or the parents, forces them into doing so (Margie 2012). This environment of education with primary concentration on teaching for testing robs student off real learning and makes education monotonous and full of drudgery thus failing in the real and actual motive of education.
Harmful for students: Not only does testing promote an unhealthy teaching environment, it also harms students in number of other ways. It puts them under extreme and undue pressure to perform which takes a toll on their emotional, social and academic-well being. Students taking extreme steps due to bad scores in tests are common across the globe. This is due to the pressure of performing in tests that students do more bad or harm to themselves. This points a big question mark on the real intent and motive of testing at schools.
Tests Breed Bias: This is one of the arguments that some of the most ardent and vocal supporters of testing have been unable to negate. Testing could be discriminatory and unfair since children and students from different and divers backgrounds are made or forced to answer questions written mostly for the majority. Moreover, tests fail to take into account the written skills of the students in which the test is to be written. Even if the student has knowledge, just because he/she is not fluent in the language, he/she flunks or does bad.
After careful and critical analysis of all the pros and cons that testing has to offer, it can be safely contended that testing does more bad than good to multiple sections including students, teachers and the parents. It promotes a culture of cramming and mugging up things than a much more and useful environment of learning. It even fails to take into account the practical knowledge of the students. It puts undue and excess pressure on students to study for the tests and the teachers to teach for the tests and in the process the real motive of education i.e. learning and understanding of concepts practically suffers and hinders.
Testing is indeed a very unsatisfactory and unreliable way of measuring the performance of students, teachers or school managements since they often are deceptive. The improvements or degradations concluded on the basis of scores in tests are highly inconclusive, trustworthy or/and permanent. The monstrous and draconian time of kids’ learning is dedicated to preparation of tests, which hardly benefits them, and hence leads to wastage of their precious time.
Testing hardly does lead to improvement in quality of education but promotes an unfit culture of intense pressure and competition. After the NCLB passed in 2002, which made testing compulsory, the US slipped from 18th in the world in math on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to 31st place in 2009, with a similar in science and no change in reading (ProCon 2010). This clearly proves that testing does no good to students, but what is worrisome is that it is potentially harmful for them academically.
The stress factor among students and teachers and also parents in some cases is a trend that directly related to testing but is utterly uncalled for. Moreover, testing is a costly affairs and it drills a deep hole in the pocket of exchequer. According to a data, Texas Education Agency spent a whopping $9 million in 2003 on testing students.
Therefore, its is safe to conclude that it is time for testing to be done away with and other methods and ways of assessment to be brought in and implemented. Testing has drastically failed to yield desired results and has been detrimental in more than one ways. It is harmful not only academically for the students, but also affects them socially and emotionally and takes an equal toll on teachers too. Most importantly learning and testing find themselves at opposite ends. As Wexler notes down, “ Testing promotes a poisonous environment which often leads to unethical behavior. Parents and students steal tests. Teachers teach to tests, instead of teaching important material (n.d).” The real loser amidst all this is education.
Meador, Derrick. ” Standardized Testing”
About. 24 April 2013. Web. 2011
Wells, Royce. ” 3 Pros and 3 Cons of teaching to a Test”
WellsOneEducation. 24 April 2013. Web. 2007
Margie. ” Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing”
Bright Hub Education. 24 April 2013. Web. 2012
ProCon. ” Is the Use of Standardized tests improving education in America?”
ProCon.org. 24 April 2013. Web. 2010
Wexler, Peter Ronald. ” The benefits and drawbacks of Standardized testing”
California State University. 24 April 2013. Web. n.d, p. 15