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Example research essay topic: Studies Have Shown Standardized Tests - 2,382 words

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Standardized tests like SAT and others are the most arguable issue in the contemporary American education. There is a big party of those who oppose the admission based on the standardized testing. Let us first look at the opponents of standardized tests. Their usual arguments look very similar in all sources. Standardized tests are unfair and are not helpful evaluation tools. Standardized tests are tests on which every student answers the identical questions, usually in multiple choice ones, each question has only one correct answer.

They reward the ability to quickly answer superficial questions that do not require real thought. They do not measure the ability to think or create in any field. Their use encourages a narrowed curriculum, outdated methods of instruction, and harmful practices such as retention in grade and tracking. They also assume all test-takers have been exposed to a white, middle-class background (sic! ) Standardized tests are not objective (! ). The only objective part of most standardized tests is the scoring, when it is done by machine. What items to include on the test, the wording and content of the items, the determination of the "correct" answer, choice of test, how the test is administered, and the uses of the results are all decisions made by subjective human beings.

Test scores are not reliable (! ). A test is completely reliable if you would get exactly the same results the second time you administered it. All existing tests have "measurement error. " This means an individual's score may vary from day to day due to testing conditions or the test-taker's mental or emotional state. As a result, many individual's scores are frequently wrong. Test scores of young children and scores on sub-sections of tests are much less reliable than test scores on adults or whole tests. Test scores do not reflect real differences among people (! ).

To construct a norm-referenced test (a test on which half the test-takers score above average, the other half below), test makers must make small differences among people appear large. Because item content differs from one test to another, even tests that claim to measure the same thing often produce very different results. Because of measurement error, two people with very different scores on one test administration might get the same scores on a second administration. On the SAT, for example, the test-makers admit that two students's cores must differ by at least 144 points (out of 1600) before they are willing to say the students' measured abilities really differ. Test makers do not remove bias from tests. Most test-makers review items for obvious biases, such as offensive words.

But this is inadequate, since many forms of bias are not superficial. Some test-makers also use statistical bias-reduction techniques. However, these techniques cannot detect underlying bias in the test's form or content. As a result, biased cultural assumptions built into the test as a whole are not exposed or removed by test-makers.

IQ tests do not measure intelligence (! ). IQ tests assume that intelligence is one thing that can be easily measured and put on a scale, rather than a variety of abilities. They also assume intelligence is fixed and permanent. However, psychologists cannot agree whether there is one thing that can be called intelligence, or whether it is fixed, let alone meaningfully measure "it. " Studies have shown that IQ scores can be changed by training, nutrition, or simply by having more friendly people administer the test. In reality, IQ tests are nothing more than a type of achievement test which primarily measures knowledge of standard English and exposure to the cultural experiences of middle class whites. Tests do not reflect what we know about how students learn.

Standardized tests are based in behaviorist psychological theories from the nineteenth century. While our understanding of the brain and how people learn and think has progressed enormously, tests have remained the same. Behaviorism assumed that knowledge could be broken into separate bits and that people learned by passively absorbing these bits. Today, cognitive and developmental psychologists understand that knowledge is not separable bits and that people (including children) learn by connecting what they already know with what they are trying to learn. If they cannot actively make meaning out of what they are doing, they do not learn or remember. But most standardized tests do not incorporate the modern theories and are still based on recall of isolated facts and narrow skills.

Multiple choice tests do not measure important student achievement. Multiple-choice tests are a very poor yardstick of student performance. They do not measure the ability to write, to use math, to make meaning from text when reading, to understand scientific methods or reasoning, or to grasp social science concepts. Nor do these tests adequately measure thinking skills or assess what people can do on real-world tasks.

Test scores are not helpful to teachers. Standardized, multiple choice tests were not originally designed to provide help to teachers. Classroom surveys show teachers do not find scores from standardized tests very helpful, so they rarely use them. The tests do not provide information that can help a teacher understand what to do next in working with a student because they do not indicate how the student learns or thinks. Good evaluation would provide helpful information to teachers. Readiness or screening tests are not helpful.

Readiness tests, used to determine if a child is ready for school, are very inaccurate and unsound. They encourage overly academic, developmentally inappropriate primary schooling. Screening tests for disabilities are often not adequately validated; they also promote a view of children as having deficits to be corrected, rather than having individual differences and strengths on which to build. There are better ways to evaluate student achievement or ability. Good teacher observation, documentation of student work, and performance-based assessment, all of which involve the direct evaluation of student effort on real learning tasks, provide useful material for teachers, parents, the community and the government. Despite their biases, inaccuracies, limited ability to measure achievement or ability, and other flaws, schools use standardized tests to determine if children are ready for school, track them into instructional groups; diagnose for learning disability, retardation and other handicaps; and decide whether to promote, retain in grade, or graduate many students.

Schools also use tests to guide and control curriculum content and teaching methods. There are no valid uses of test scores. No test is good enough to serve as the sole or primary basis for important educational decisions. Readiness tests, used to determine if a child is ready for school, are very inaccurate and encourage the use of overly academic, developmentally inappropriate primary schooling (that is, schooling not appropriate to the child's emotional, social or intellectual development and to the variation in children's development).

Screening tests for disabilities are often not adequately validated; that is, it is not proven that they are accurately measuring for disabilities. They also promote a view of children as having deficits to be corrected, rather than having individual differences and strengths on which to build. While screening tests are supposed to be used to refer children for further diagnosis, they often are used to place children in special programs. Tracking hurts slower students and mostly does not help more advanced students. Retention in grade, or flunking or leaving a student back, is almost always academically and emotionally harmful, not helpful.

Test content is a very poor basis for determining curriculum content, and teaching methods based on the test are themselves harmful. Opponents usually stress that students from low income and minority group backgrounds are more likely to be retained in grade, placed in a lower track, or put in special or remedial education programs when it is not necessary. They are more likely to be given a watered-down or "dummies-down" curriculum, based heavily on rote drill and test practice. This only ensures they will fall further and further behind their peers.

On the other hand, children from white, middle and upper income backgrounds are more likely to be placed in "gifted and talented" or college preparatory programs where they are challenged to read, explore, investigate, think and progress rapidly. (sic! ) The opponents also argue that in many districts, raising test scores has become the single most important indicator of school improvement. As a result, teachers and administrators feel enormous pressure to ensure that test scores go up. Schools narrow and change the curriculum to match the test. Teachers teach only what is covered on the test.

Methods of teaching conform to the multiple-choice format of the tests. Teaching more and more resembles testing. "Teaching to the test" does not increase student capabilities and knowledge. This depends on whether the test is good. For multiple-choice tests, "teaching to the test" means focusing on the content that will be on the test, sometimes even drilling on test items, and using the format of the test as a basis for teaching. Since this kind of teaching to the test leads primarily to improved test-taking skills, increases in test scores do not necessarily mean improvement in real academic performance. Teaching to the test also narrows the curriculum, forcing teachers and students to concentrate on memorization of isolated facts, instead of developing fundamental and higher order abilities.

For example, multiple-choice writing tests are really copy-editing tests, which do not measure the ability to organize or communicate ideas. Practicing on tests or test-like exercises is not how to learn even the mechanics of English, much less how to write like a writer. Standardized tests do not provide accountability. Tests that measure as little and as poorly as multiple-choice tests cannot provide genuine accountability. Pressure to teach to the test distorts and narrows education. Instead of being accountable to parents, community, teachers and students, schools become "accountable" to a completely unregulated testing industry.

Those who are against standardized tests say that better methods of evaluating student needs and progress already exist and propose an interesting alternative. Good observational checklists used by trained teachers are more helpful than any screening test. Assessment based on student performance on real learning tasks is more useful and accurate for measuring achievement - and provides more information - than multiple-choice achievement tests. Trained teams of judges can be used to rate performance in most any academic or non-academic area. In the Olympic Games, for example, gymnasts and divers are rated by panels of judges, and the high and low scores are thrown out. Studies have shown that, with training, the level of agreement among judges (the "inter-rater reliability") is high.

As with multiple-choice tests, it is necessary to enact safeguards to ensure that race, class, gender, linguistic or other cultural biases do not affect evaluation. One of the final and most valuable (as opponents think) argument is the obvious lie. They say that the United States is the only economically advanced nation to rely heavily on multiple-choice tests. Other nations use performance-based assessment where students are evaluated on the basis of real work such as essays, projects and activities.

Ironically, because these nations do not focus on teaching to multiple-choice tests, they even score higher than U. S. students on those kinds of tests. This is the list of organizations, both national and international, that oppose the standardized testing: AESA 2001 Legislative Agenda/Accountability and Testing Under "What's New" American Evaluation Association (AEA) Alliance for Childhood American Association of School Administrators (AASA) American Association of University Women (Wisconsin) American Civil Liberties Union American Educational Research Association (AERA) American Society for Ethics in Education Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Association of Childhood Educator's International (ACEI) American Psychological Association Applied Research Center Canadian Psychological Association and the Canadian Association of School Psychologists Center for Collaborative Education Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. Center for Law and Education Code of Fair Testing Practices In Education Prepared by the Joint Committee on Testing Practices Consortium for Equity in Standards and Testing (CTEST) Harvard Civil Rights Project International Reading Association (IRA) Massachusetts Alliance for High Standards NOT High Stakes (also see list of state organizations opposed to high-stakes testing joined in the Alliance) Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund National Academy Press (NAP) National Association for the Education of Young Children National Association of Elementary School Principals National Association of Secondary School Principals National Coalition of Education Activists National Council for Social Studies National Council of La Raza (NCLR) National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) National Council of Teachers of Mathematics National Council on Measurement in Education National Education Association (NEA) The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform National PTA National Research Council National Women's Law Center North Carolina School Psychology Association National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans Rouge Forum Scarsdale, New York Board of Education Statement Senator Paul Wellstone Students Against Testing Student Coalition for Alternative to MCAS Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Whole Language Umbrella Interesting enough, one cannot find here any non American/Canadian organizations, while the standardized tests are used almost worldwide. The good example is Japan, as well as Great Britain.

Or may be they are not economically advanced? The U. S. Supreme Court decisions on the University of Michigan's law school and undergraduate admissions policies should, "encourage even more colleges and universities to de-emphasize standardized test scores in evaluating applicants, " according to Fair Test, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing. Robert Schaeffer, Fair Test's Public Education Director, explained "Test scores do not measure merit, as our Supreme Court Amicus brief in these cases clearly demonstrates. Reliance on exams such as the LSAT and SAT contributes to racially discriminatory admissions practices but does not improve academic quality.

The Supreme Court rulings mean that more colleges which want to promote both equity and excellence will implement 'holistic' procedures, which reduce the role of test scores and focus on richer sources of data. " Holistic admissions practices involve a comprehensive review of each applicant's full portfolio including such factors as high school academic performance, extracurricular activities, community service, and family background. Another interesting fact is that all the sources refer to the standardized testing as one of the arguable issues it is very difficult to find any supporting resource. This...

Free research essays on topics related to: iq tests, standardized tests, multiple choice, studies have shown, test scores

Research essay sample on Studies Have Shown Standardized Tests

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