In an effort to improve education, especially in the United States, standardized testing has been instituted. But does it really work? This overview is not intended to answer the question of whether or not standardized testing works but to present both sides of the argument both for an against it.
The theory behind standardized testing is very simple. Every student is taught the same material in each subject so that a standardized test can be created and given to each of them. This will serve as a good barometer as to the student's progress.
Those who support the theory say that with standardized tests there is nothing left to chance or discretion of the teacher. Every teacher is different and therefore every teacher has a different style of teaching, which includes how they create tests for their students. Some teachers create what would have considered difficult tests while other teachers create what would have considered very easy tests. In this case how well a student does on these tests would be directly related to the teacher they happened to get. With standardized testing and each teacher teaching the same material, this variable is eliminated. Thus, every student is taught the same, tested the same and therefore can be evaluated the same.
Those who are against standardized testing give the following argument. Teachers may not all be the same, but neither are students. To encompass that each child has the ability to learn a subject at the same speed as another student is unfair. That is why many schools have several levels of classes which normally include advanced, regular and slow. This way students can be taught according to their abilities and not by some standard set for them. With standardized testing, the slower children have very little chance of succeeding. If they can not keep up with the work there is no way, when test time comes, that they will be able to complete the test as there is a good chance that a large part of the material they never learned. By coercing the teachers to go through each unit of the course in a certain amount of time totally defeats the purpose of getting an education in the first place. Ultimately, the slower children do not learn anything, are just pushed through and fail the tests anyway. This leads to greater drop out rates and more children facing a life of underemployment and unemployment.
Of course the entire argument on this subject is much more complex than the couple of paragraphs above. In the meantime, at least for now, standardized testing is winning the war. Most school systems have them. Some systems do well with them and some not so well. Usually it is the school system in the poorer district that does poorly with standardized test scores. Many times, whole classes fail their standardized tests, which are now required for a child to graduate from high school. Compounding this problem is no child left behind that pushes kids to the next grade before they are even ready. By the time they are seniors they have the education level of a 7th grader. When it comes time to take their final standardized test to graduate, they literally have no chance.
As was stated at the top, there is no current solution to the problem and no answer as to whether or not standardized testing should continue. The only thing that is certain is that it is a growing problem that will not go away.