Opinion: Do standardized tests really help student achievement?

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By Henry Forbes, Staff Writer

With the testing season over, people are looking ahead to the summer and the events that will unfold in the coming school year. However, some students and teachers are expecting standardized tests to make a return in the future…whether they like it or not.

Standardized tests, which made exceptional headway in 2002 by George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program, have received mixed reactions in the past few years, with some saying it boosts student’s education while others saying it does nothing for them.

According to a peer-reviewed, 100-year analysis of testing research, 93 percent of studies on student testing, including the use of large-scale and high-stakes standardized tests, found a “positive effect” on student achievement, while 50-80 percent of year-over-year test score improvements were temporary and “caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning…” according to a 2001 study published by the Brookings Institution.

Standards of Learning (or SOL tests) in particular are the most well-known standardized tests used in Virginia, and though some can say they are a decent form of student evaluation, how useful are these tests to the student body in the state?

John Morley, sophomore, believes that SOL tests have a positive effect on the student body, and that they can help with student achievement. Morley describes what it is like preparing for the SOL tests and what it feels like building up to test day.

“I take it kind of relaxed,” Morley said. “I’ve got all the knowledge in my brain. I feel like I have an idea as to what’s going to be on it.”

However, Morley does state what it is like when he sits down and finally takes the SOL tests, and how he feels when doing so.

“I would say stressful is definitely the word I use,” Morley said. “When you sit down to take the test I feel stressed.”

This is to be expected, as stress when taking these tests, primarily among young students, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes with instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it, according to the Sacramento Bee. This shows that tests can cause much stress in students, which in turn prevents concentration and places more work on the student rather than enhance their abilities.

Also, Morley said that the SOL tests may not be an ideal source for learning new material, but rather as a summative assignment to assess the student’s current learning ability.

“I think I would learn more without them,” Morley said. “It’s just testing you with what you know already.”

Morley has a point, as the SOL tests are only meant to be a summary of what students learn for the entirety of the year. However, if this is only meant to be an evaluation of student achievement, then why is it people like Morley seem to learn little from it?
Standardized tests should enhance, not hinder, student achievement and academic ability. While it can be stated that these tests make sure people understand what they have learned throughout the course of the year, they should not instill so much stress in students, as well as to have the ability to better the knowledge of the student instead of holding them back from learning new material.

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