Is Standardized Testing Doing Its Job?

Standardized testing: Children fear it. Adults wonder about it. Officials support it. But is it effective? According to Todd Farley’s recent article on The Huffington Post, that answer is “no way.”

Farley is the author of Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry. Despite being an outspoken critic of standardized testing in the media, he has somehow procured a job in the testing industry. In the article, he points out that, since he had a child, his opinion of the testing industry has changed. Whereas he once thought it just an incompetent money-making business, he now looks at it as a growth industry with serious consequences for his family and its attempts to support a needy child.

The whole article is tongue-in-cheek. He doesn’t really think the standardized testing industry is any good. To support that belief, he talks about people who get fired at one testing company easily getting rehired at another. He mentions companies that are lacking in their testing standards easily picking up new contracts. And he points out how test questions have been recycled state to state, test to test. The picture he paints is of an industry interested in business and nothing more. Our children are but cogs in a money-making machine, he seems to say.

Read the article here.

From accusations that tests are biased to concerns that students’ futures are too dependent on the results, standardized testing is often made a rhetorical punching bag. Yet, the basic idea behind testing is a good one: To evaluate how well students are doing.

It seems simple. With all the students we have in each state of this country, it is near impossible to determine how well they are doing according to grade level, when compared with each other, and when held up against students in the rest of the world. Standardized testing is one way that has been found to evaluate the quality of American education. That it has its shortcomings is obvious. That it might not be implemented effectively is possible. That is should not exist… who knows? Regardless, concerns about the industry do deserve attention.

If the standardized testing industry is cutting corners in order to make money off our youth, then investigations must be started, reforms must be made, and school systems will need to adjust accordingly. Farley’s article is an interesting starting off point to begin a look at the testing industry and how well, or poorly, it may be doing.

To read a 2009 Time article about the history of Standardized Testing, go here.

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