Although the merits of standardized tests are debated, they are still thought to be a fair and objective method of assessing the academic achievements of students. However, 81% of teachers believe their students are spending too much time taking mandated tests. Despite test-taking being ingrained in school culture, and all the money being made by test prep providers, there are disadvantages as well as alternatives to standardized testing.
Disadvantages of standardized testing
Most students know only too well how time consuming the process of preparing for high-stakes tests can be. The system seems almost designed to cause anxiety, stress, and late nights spent studying. In addition to the anxiety caused by taking tests, testing is also costlier than you might think. But it isn’t just the cost in time and money that is leading creative educators to consider alternatives to standardized testing.
Taking standardized tests don’t really provide a full and accurate picture of a student’s ability, the overall progress they have made during the year, or the ability of the teacher. Different tests often have contradictory and confusing goals, and some test results are simply inaccurate. Also, in many cases the scores needed to pass the test have been lowered to achieve more consistency, which defeats the purpose.
Alternatives to standardized testing
It may not be easy to go against established traditions, but some education reformers want to rid schools of the misuse and abuse of standardized tests by supporting the use of meaningful, reliable and descriptive alternatives. Test anxiety, low scores, and underperforming schools could one day be a thing of the past, as more educators realize the potential of alternate assessment methods that emphasize curriculum substance rather than test prep in the classroom.
So what are the possible solutions to assessing student performance while allowing students to continue learning without the need for test-driven lessons interrupting their normal classroom activities? For one thing, instead of taking a test as a requirement for graduation from high school, seniors might complete a portfolio or exhibition. This would be supportive of other learning styles, not just good test-takers.
American University’s School of Education created an infographic that provides valuable information on the current state of standardized test taking and the alternative methods that could change people’s views of accountability. From software-mediated learning to portfolio-based assessments, this graphic will give you a peek at creative alternatives to standardized testing. View the full graphic below: