Their intellectual level cannot, and should not, be based entirely on one high-stakes test at the term’s end. In agreement with this is professor of education and public policy, George Madaus. According to him, these tests “leave out one of the most informational things we have about these kids, and that’s teacher judgements. ” This statement is a perfect example of the faults high-stakes testing has. Measures of achievement hold more substance than a simple arithmetic test can provide. Personality traits, moral development, the infinite complexities we have, these can only be judged by human interaction.
One of the great quandaries associated with the standardized testing method is the weight attributed to such inaccurate scores. A myriad of factors could effect the outcome. The technology used to administer the test has been known to malfunction as well as the scoring system. Mentioned in a PBS interview discussing high-stakes testing, is a recent issue taking place in Massachusetts. Multiple tenth grade students have found errors in their statewide test. Some were textual, such as the naming of James Madison as John Madison, or a simple mistake on the math portion.
However, some errors were not grammatical but as one critic stated “ambiguous, where A is the answer they want, but B isn’t that bad… that really masks the true ability level of the kid. ” One of the more well known questions of that sort was once presented to elementary school students stating, “Which of the following needs the least amount of water? ” with three pictures beside it serving as the answers. First was a cactus, then a geranium, and finally a head of cabbage. The adults who created the test obviously intended for the cactus to be the correct choice, but a large number of students surprisingly chose the cabbage.
When asked to explain what caused them to err, the kids logically responded that since the cabbage was no longer in the ground it had no reason to be watered. Various more factors have been causing students to receive scores below their level of knowledge. Among these are sudden illnesses, crisis outside of school, or in some cases just a bad day for taking a test. All of these are beyond the control of the test takers but can decide whether or not a vital class is passed or, in more serious cases, whether a senior is able to receive his or her diploma.
Unfortunately, a percent of error is not taken into account for students. Amid the many faults of standardized exams lie some beneficial aspects. Created by these exams are valuable baselines for educational standards in a target area. This makes the comparison and analysis between scores possible, which, according to Diane Ravitch, a research professor at NYU, is important. Ravitch declared in a concession about the current standardizations that “Testing is not the problem… information derived from tests can be extremely valuable, if the tests are valid and reliable. Ravitch’s concluding phrase brings about another problem. Although the knowledge gathered through these tests is needed, the practice of evaluating, and sometimes paying, schools and teachers by their standardized test scores has created a cheating epidemic. Corruption became imminent in the 1990s when then-governor of Texas George W. Bush initiated a plan that handed out rewards and funding only to improving schools. Since then cheating has been running rampant around the country.
One of the more recent scandals involved test score manipulations in Atlanta, Georgia, which resulted in the indictment of thirty-five educators. Among them was the district superintendent. Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest accurately explains that “The widespread cheating problem… is one more example of the ways politicians’ fixation on high-stakes testing is damaging education quality and equity. ” The practice of using standardized testing in the American school system has become one of the most contentious topics in today’s society.
Although educational standards are easily set and compared using these standardized tests, the unfair and inaccurate methods used to attain them do much more harm than good. Technological errors, miscommunication between test takers and test creators, fraudulence in school systems, it is obvious that these high-stakes exams are beyond faulty. However, the most malignant aspect of these tests is the levity a single test carries for students’ and educators’ annual achievement; this approach is completely unjust and provides a flawed report on all parties involved.