Standardized tests were created to assess a standard curriculum, but our lessons are not standard and neither are our students. Our students are not one-size-fits-all. They have multiple intelligences and different learning styles. Our students are not all the same, and it is unrealistic to assess them all in the same way. Standardized tests definitely do not address the “whole child” because they are one-dimensional: They require students to bubble in answers in answer documents that are checked by computers that tabulate their scores. Standardized tests reduce students to a number.
Standardized testing is counter-intuitive to differentiated instruction. If we support differentiated instruction as a means to make curriculum and education accessible to all students, why do we test all students in just one way? The tests are biased and questions are written in specific ways to trick the test taker, which is unfair, especially for second-language learners. Summative assessment should be straightforward.
Unfortunately, standardized tests are undeniable. Because tests are mandated by the state and determine school funding and teacher success, some teachers succumb to “teaching to the test” in order to keep their jobs and keep their schools from becoming a “turn-around” school. This means exemplary instruction is further compromised and diminished. When necessary, teachers should teach how to test, not teach to the test. A standardized test is like a marathon; students need to be trained for the strenuous activity of extensive testing. They need a toolkit of tricks and a means of understanding confusing questions and language.
This means of testing is universal because it is easy to administer and tally results. But standardized testing is just one form of assessment. It can be a means of collecting data about student performance and student achievement, but it is not and should not be the only way of determining success.