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Resolved: On balance, standardized testing is beneficial to K-12 education in the United States

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/25/2015 Category: Education
Updated: 9 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 673 times Debate No: 84181
Debate Rounds (4)
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Standardized Testing is Good
Issitt 15
Standardized Testing: An Overview. By: Issitt, Micah L., McMahon, Maureen, Points of View: Standardized Testing, 2015, Points of View Reference Center, 11/20/15

A standardized test is one that is given to evaluate the performance of students relative to all other students with the same characteristics, for example, all fourth-grade students or all students taking AP English in high school. In the United States, standardized testing is one of the primary methods used to measure the performance of educational institutions (and often teachers) and to make decisions about the distribution of funding.
Standardized tests have been used in American schools since the 1930s to help identify students with special needs Since that time, a series of legislative measures, including the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), has placed increasing importance on the results of standardized tests. In response to those measures, public schools currently administer standardized tests as a prerequisite for receiving federal funding.
Proponents argue that standardized testing is the most efficient method of assessing the performance of students and institutions and of maintaining the quality of education. Some critics argue that standardized tests are culturally and socially biased and that educators do not understand the variables that contribute to test scores. In addition, it has been suggested that standardized testing is an ineffective use of federal funding.
Though many agree that the testing system is flawed, some believe that the current model can be reformed, while others believe that it is impossible to create a test to accurately measure aptitude across a diverse student population
Standardized Test: A type of test given and graded in a uniform manner in an effort to create a universal standard against which the performance of individual students may be measured.
Standardized Testing Today
NCLB has been criticized by educational organizations who believe that the program represents a misallocation of federal funding. Critics argue that federal funding could be better used to improve pay rates and benefits for teachers, especially since tenure and reappointment are often based on test scores. In addition, some have criticized NCLB for making standardized testing a legal requirement without engaging in a suitable public debate. Under the Obama Administration, NCLB waivers were issued to districts that felt the program was not working for their schools. These waivers exempt school districts from some or all of the federal requirements under NCLB, including standardized testing.
Proponents of testing argue that the government has a responsibility to ensure that educational funding is given to schools with the greatest need, and that the government must rely on some testing procedure to ensure that federal funding is being effectively used. In addition, some proponents argue that without standardized testing educators would be unable to identify students with special needs.
Several independent research studies have indicated that the process of studying for tests helps students to develop long-term recall, even concerning material that is not included in the actual test. However, recent studies indicate that short-answer and essay tests are more effective than the current, largely multiple-choice testing models in helping students to recall information. In addition, some critics believe that standardized testing teaches students to learn in a way conducive to multiple-choice exams (that there is always one right answer) while encouraging teachers to "teach to the test" rather than supporting students' critical-thinking skills. High-stakes federal achievement requirements have also led to several large-scale cheating scandals, including a 2011 revelation that hundreds of Atlanta public school teachers altered standardized tests in order to falsely report student performance improvements. Finally, while standardized tests offer information about a population, they do not provide data that addresses the achievement of specific individuals (Cangliosi, 1990, p. 26).


Essentially, your article covers both the pro and the con.

Standardized test promote teaching a test rather than teaching critical thinking. On one hand you have a student who can pass a test but fails to apply their knowledge to a real world scenario. On the other hand you have a student who can take the various facets of a problem and create a solution that adheres to the nuances and minutia of that problem.

Furthermore, Thomas Armstrong analyzes short comings of the standardized testing system:
Because so much emphasis is placed on standardized test results these days, teachers are spending more and more time "teaching to the test." If there is something that is interesting, compelling, useful, or otherwise favorable to the development of a student"s understanding of the world, but it is not going to be on the standardized test, then there really isn"t any incentive to cover this material. Instead, most of classroom time consists of either taking the tests or preparing for the tests, and this shuts out the possibility of learning anything new or important. For example, because the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) only tests reading, math, and science that means that art, social studies, physical education, history, and other subjects are given far less attention than used to be the case.

Standardized tests occur in an artificial learning environment: they"re timed, you can"t talk to a fellow student, you can"t ask questions, you can"t use references or learning devices, you can"t get up and move around. How often does the real world look like this? Prisons come to mind. And yet, even the most hard-headed conservative will say that education must prepare students for "the real world." Clearly standardized testing doesn"t do this.

Standardized tests create stress. Some kids do well with a certain level of stress. Other students fold. So, again, there isn"t a level playing field. Brain research suggests that too much stress is psychologically and physically harmful. And when stress becomes overwhelming, the brain shifts into a "fight or flight" response, where it is impossible to engage in the higher-order thinking processes that are necessary to respond correctly to the standardized test questions.

Standardized tests reduce the richness of human experience and human learning to a number or set of numbers. This is dehumanizing. A student may have a deep knowledge of a particular subject, but receive no acknowledgement for it because his or her test score may have been low. If the student were able to draw a picture, lead a group discussion, or create a hands-on project, he/she could show that knowledge. But not in a standardized testing room. Tough luck."


At the end of the day it comes down to what you value. If we continue to put undue interest into the importance of standardized tests, we may generate a general testing template but we lose creativity and ingenuity in the long run.However, if we allow the classroom to foster creativity and critical thinking, we will in turn create a generation of people who are able to tackle the complex problems that face our world today. As it stands now, the status quo of standardized testing is detrimental to US education and should thus be reformed.
Debate Round No. 1


Standardized Tests Can Help Combat Inequity
Bobb 15
By: Robert C. Bobb, Aug. 30 2015, Copyright " The Washington Post Company Aug 30, 2015. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with Permission

Disparities in educational achievement between low-income minority students and their more affluent peers loom large despite years of work to close the gap. Some point to this as a reason we should back away from accountability-driven endeavors such as stronger state standards and aligned assessments. In fact, it should motivate us only to redouble those efforts and push boldly forward.
Civil rights leaders and testing opponents have been locked in a fight over this issue . Testing critics say the lack of significant improvement among economically disadvantaged minority students - despite years of standardized testing - proves that tests do little to close the achievement gap and in fact only exacerbate inequity. Civil rights advocates, in turn, argue that the tests provide data essential to understanding the magnitude of the gap in student performance and highlighting the need to fix it.
Four years ago, we were on the right track. That was when a bipartisan group of governors embraced a set of universal educational ideals that became known as the Common Core State Standards. They worked to focus on the bedrock skills and knowledge all students need to succeed in school and after regardless of their individual circumstance or the career path they chose to pursue. Developed with heavy input from educators, the standards emphasize critical thinking, reading and math skills. They also measure students' readiness for success in education and the workplace beyond high school.
Many civil rights organizations - the NAACP, the National Urban League, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Council of La Raza, for example - are right to be concerned about how the absence of uniform standards and a rigorous assessment regimen could affect the most vulnerable populations, including those they serve.
"We cannot fix what we cannot measure. And abolishing the tests or sabotaging the validity of their results only makes it harder to identify and fix the deep-seated problems in our schools," those and other groups said in a recent statement.
Various people have offered counterarguments. Scholars such as Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles, have thrown unrelated elements into the debate. The Post paraphrased Orfield this year: "Tests don't address the social problems that poor children bring to school or the fact that many start kindergarten already lagging behind more affluent children."


Though standardized test may help Identify racial inequity, it can by no means combat inequity:
"Dating back to the development of IQ tests at the turn of the century, standardized tests have been used to sort and rank children, most reprehensibly along racial and class lines, and to rationalize giving more privileges to the already privileged. Indeed the first standardized tests were developed by eugenicists anxious for "scientific" data to prove their theories of biological determinism."

Furthermore as stated previously, policy makers place to much emphasis on the test and not on the real world:
"Proponents of standardized tests often wrap themselves in the language of high standards. But that's not the issue. No one advocates low standards. The issue is what we mean by higher standards, and how we can reach those standards.By and large, calls for more standardized tests come from politicians eager to prove they are serious about school reform and creating a "high skills," internationally competitive workforce. But they offer little if any evidence that links increased testing to improved teaching and learning. Similarly, test-pushers pay scant attention to key issues such as smaller classes, improved teacher education, more time for teacher planning and collaboration, and ensuring that all schools receive adequate and equitable resources needed to boost achievement.
Rather than grappling with these issues, too many politicians have seized on a simplistic formula for reform: more standardized tests, especially "high stakes" tests. Nationwide, states and school districts are forcing a growing number of children to take "high stakes" standardized tests and, on the basis of test scores, children may be retained, denied access to a preferred high school, or, in some cases, even refused a high school diploma. That's not public accountability, it's discrimination.
Dating back to the development of IQ tests at the turn of the century, standardized tests have been used to sort and rank children, most reprehensibly along racial and class lines, and to rationalize giving more privileges to the already privileged. Indeed the first standardized tests were developed by eugenicists anxious for "scientific" data to prove their theories of biological determinism.
To acknowledge the sinister origins of standardized tests is not, however, to dismiss parent and community concerns about school accountability. We understand and agree with these concerns. Too many schools fail too many children, especially low-income students, students of color, and students who do not speak English as a first language. The broader community has the right and the responsibility to oversee how well schools perform. Good assessments can be one valid method of insuring accountability.

The test itself has come to bind our educational system, not by wishing to bring a better tomorrow, but rather to bring a process to categorize you by tomorrow. If our education stays along this path, then the future of our world will be as stoic and lifeless as these test are. It is for that reason that we must reform our testing system or annihilate it all together.
Debate Round No. 2


Mandated Tests Pushed as Civil Rights for Children
Layton 15
By Lyndsey Layton, Copyright "
The Washington Post Company Apr. 11, 2015

Advocates for poor and minority children are pushing a novel idea: standardized tests as a civil right.
The nation's major civil rights groups say that federally required testing - in place for a decade through existing law - is a tool to force fairness in public schools by aiming a spotlight at the stark differences in scores between poor, minority students and their more affluent counterparts.
And they are fighting legislative efforts to scale back testing as lawmakers on Capitol Hill rewrite the nation's main federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind.
"Removing the requirement for annual testing would be a devastating step backward, for it is very hard to make sure our education system is serving every child well when we don't have reliable, comparable achievement data on every child every year," Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, said in recent testimony before the Senate education panel. Her group joined 20 civil rights organizations to lobby Congress to keep the requirement to test all children each year in math and reading.
The civil rights argument adds a new dimension to one of the most contentious education issues in decades: whether standardized testing is good for students. Congress is wrestling with that question as it reauthorizes No Child Left Behind. The Senate education panel is expected to begin debating a bipartisan bill next week that would maintain annual testing, but it is unclear how the bill will fare in the House, where conservative Republicans want to drastically scale back the federal role in education.
Critics say the testing mandate hasn't done much to narrow the gap in scores but has drained the joy from classrooms, fostering a testing fixation that critics blamed for ills including narrowed curriculums and cheating scandals.
A growing number of parents around the country are having their children opt out of federally required standardized tests, and people including President Obama and comedian Louis C.K. have complained.
"It's reached a level where people are saying 'enough is enough,' " said Robert Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which wants to end the standardized testing mandate. "People are sick of the overkill of test volume and the consequences, ridiculous things like rating art teachers based on the reading test scores in their schools."


Racial Bias is actually exacerbated by standardized testing:

"In the case against the Texas TAAS test (see related story), plaintiffs presented research showing that standard test-construction methods built in racial bias. The judge concluded he "cannot quarrel" with that finding. Groups concerned about civil rights should use this argument to oppose the use of tests to make high-stakes decisions, such as school graduation or grade promotion.

According to a declaration by Prof. Martin Shapiro of Emory University, who is both a lawyer and a psychologist, Texas uses "point-biserial correlations" in deciding which items to use and which questions to discard as the test is assembled from field-tested questions. Items with high biserial correlations are those generally answered correctly by test-takers who score high on the test overall. Items which many low-scoring students get right have lower correlations.

To obtain higher consistency (and hence technical reliability) on the test, Texas follows the typical practice of using items with the highest correlation values. This procedure means that on items covering the same materials, the ones with the greatest gaps between high and low scorers will be used. Because minority group students typically perform less well on the test as a whole, the effort to increase reliability also increases bias against minorities.

According to other research, items which facilitate ranking and sorting are often items which, perhaps unintentionally, factor non-school learning and social background into the questions. Such items help create consistency in test results, but they often are based on the experiences of white middle-to-upper class children, who also typically have access to a stronger academic education.

This test assembly approach was developed in large part to help obtain consistency on tests designed to rank and sort students, such as IQ tests, the SAT, or national, norm-referenced achievement tests (NRTs). While procedures which reinforce racial and other biases should not be used in any case, tests such as TAAS now rely on biserial correlations -- even though the TAAS supposedly is not intended to sort students but to determine whether they have met specified levels of achievement. By using this method of item selection, the TAAS, like many other state "criterion-referenced" or "standards-based" exams, is actually constructed to resemble an NRT.

This common test development procedure exacerbates the existing inequities of schooling. When used in high-stakes testing, biserial correlation helps ensure that at least some students who know the material and ought to pass the tests do not. Those students are overwhelmingly low-income, of color, with English as a second language, or have special needs."


The pro has no benefits except the fact that standardized testing may alleviate racial bias however, as the information provided by states, racial bias is further accentuated by standardized tests. As stated before, standardized test do not promote education, performance, or passion. That hollowness creates staid thinking and in a world that is constantly moving forward leads to regression.
Debate Round No. 3


Support for the Pro position of this resolution if bountiful and defensible in a properly framed debate. At the outset, the Pro debater needs to recognize there is significant negative press against standardized testing arising from a multitude of factors, many of which are unrelated to the question of whether or not standardized testing is beneficial to student education. These negative factors poison the well and spread the perception that because some elements related to standardized testing are undesirable, then standardized testing in general must be undesirable. This, of course, is a logical fallacy; a kind of fallacy of composition in which one draws conclusions about a whole based upon an examination of smaller portions. Standardized testing is a tool and like any tool can be designed for specific purposes. We shall examine those purposes and their effect on education and we will scratch the surface of an abundance of studies which measure the effect of testing on students. Much of the research extends back several decades and is still cited in research journals today.

A Basic Definition
To clarify the position, I will provide a definition for standardized tests which describes their nature and their purpose.

JCCHD (undated):
A Standardized test is a test that is given in a consistent or "standard" manner. Standardized tests are designed to have consistent questions, administration procedures, and scoring procedures. When a standardized test is administrated, is it done so according to certain rules and specifications so that testing conditions are the same for all test takers. Standardized tests come in many forms, such as standardized interviews, questionnaires, or directly administered intelligence tests. The main benefit of standardized tests is they are typically more reliable and valid than non-standardized measures. They often provide some type of "standard score" which can help interpret how far a child"s score ranges from the average.

Based upon this definition we can surmise that the test may be administered by a school in accordance with some over-arching direction or purpose and may be required by local administration or government or at the state level. A key principle is the test must be administered and assessed in a standardized and consistent way aligned to the purpose it is designed to serve.

Key Advantages
Standardized tests offer advantages to school system administrators which are not possible with in-class testing and assessments designed and graded by teachers. The key advantages are objectivity, comparability, and accountability (Churchill 2015). Depending on the type of test one teacher's evaluation of a student's test may be different than another teacher's evaluation of the same student's test results. This variability can result from a lack of objectivity in the design or assessment of the test and lead to different impressions of a student's level of achievement. Standardized tests are designed to greatly reduce subjective grading. Often, standardized tests are assessed by computers rather than humans. Not only does this reduce costs by eliminating the need to pay graders, it enforces objective standards. The second major advantage is seen when a local school board needs to determine the overall level of achievement of, say sixth-graders in several different schools within their jurisdiction, Standardized tests ensure that all of the sixth-grade students will be evaluated on a common, objective standard. This allows a fair evaluation of sixth-grade achievement and helps determine which schools or classes may be in need of improvement. Objectivity and comparability are both necessary to realize the advantages linked to accountability. School system administrators use the tests as a feedback mechanism for the schools and classes to alter curriculum or resources in such a way they can benefit student achievement. Accountability requires the individual schools and instructors demonstrate forward progress in achieving the goals of the school administration.

From Feedback to Blowback
I do want to spend a little time discussing the downside of standardized tests because I believe a thorough evaluation and acknowledgement of problems increases the Pro ethos. Accountability is pushed by governments intent on maximizing their educational dollars. Obviously, an administration concerned with high costs will tend to view standardized tests as a mechanism for achieving goals for the least cost. First, the cost of testing is relatively cheap and secondly standardized tests can potentially isolate problems in individual schools, classrooms, or teachers putting increased pressure on those systems and individuals. Moreover, politicians can use accountability to enhance their own political statuses.

Merrow (2001):
But the fundamental problem is that many schools and school districts use standardized test results more for accountability than understanding or diagnosis. I'm not blaming educators for this situation, because they're only following orders. H. D. Hoover of the University of Iowa defends testing but agrees we've gone overboard. He places the blame squarely on politicians. "They want quick fixes, and they like tests because they're cheap. They mandate external tests because to the public it looks like they're doing something about education when all they're doing is actually a very inexpensive 'quick fix.'"

When accountability increases pressure on school districts in a heavy-handed way, students are often re-categorized for failure to demonstrate achievement above a particular "cut-line" which alarms and often angers parents. Teachers are pressured to increase the performance of students and some teachers are viewed as professionally incompetent. All of this pressure results in negative attitudes about standardized testing and leads to abuses which have resulted in overly narrowed curriculum which focus entirely on the tests, and in extreme cases, cheating. All of these negative impressions ripple through communities and result in the perception standardized tests are the problem. The link between the home and the administration is the classroom and the teachers themselves play a significant role in the success or failure of the testing programs.

Brown & Hattie (2012):
The belief systems of teachers are a significant factor in whether standardized tests can be educationally useful. Clearly, pre-existing beliefs that standardized tests are irrelevant can and will influence how teachers respond to the possibility of using tests educationally. But there are other options for understanding the purpose and nature of assessment; assessment can evaluate schools, it can evaluate or certify students, and it can be for improvement (Brown, 2008). For example, in the development of the asTTle standardized tests system, it was found that teachers who endorsed the conception of assessment related to "assessment is powerful for improving teaching" had higher interpretation scores on a test about the meaning of the asTTle test score reports (r = .34). In contrast, teachers who endorsed more strongly the conception of assessment as a means of evaluating or holding schools accountable had the lowest interpretation scores (r = -.21) (Hattie et al. 2006).Thus, successful use of standardized tests requires believing that they can contribute to improved teaching and student learning for the individuals in a teacher"s class. This belief leads to more accurate interpretation to the educationally useful information communicated in standardized test reports.[290]

We can see tests as simple measuring systems which serve as an important tool in guiding the educational development of students. Ultimately it is how those tools are used and people's attitudes about how the tools are used which guides perception of whether or not the tests are beneficial. No doubt it guides the perception of the PF debate judge as well.


The purpose of education has evolved over time. However, no where in the discussion does standardized testing seem to promote the goals of education.

"The one continuing purpose of education, since ancient times,
has been to bring people to as full a realization as possible of
what it is to be a human being. Other statements of educational
purpose have also been widely accepted: to develop the intellect,
to serve social needs, to contribute to the economy, to
create an effective work force, to prepare students for a job or
career, to promote a particular social or political system. These
purposes offered are undesirably limited in scope, and in some
instances they conflict with the broad purpose I have indicated;
they imply a distorted human existence. The broader humanistic
purpose includes all of them, and goes beyond them, for it seeks
to encompass all the dimensions of human experience.

"Arthur W. Foshay, The Curriculum Matrix: Transcendence
and Mathematics," Journal of Curriculum and
Supervision, 1991

"[The purpose of education] has changed from that of producing a literate society to that
of producing a learning society."

"Margaret Ammons, Associate Secretary of ASCD, Purpose and Program:
How Does Commitment Today Differ from That in Other Periods,
Educational Leadership, October 1964

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education
which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal
may be the man gifted with reason but no morals. We must remember that intelligence is not
enough. Intelligence plus character"that is the goal of true education."

"Martin Luther King Jr., speech at Morehouse College, 1948

It seems that the only ad coming off the pro is a uniform system of testing. In no way can we establish any sort of syllogism that connotes that uniformity leads to and increase in critical and moral thinking. For that reason we must reject the advocacy for tests and the notion that standardized testing is beneficial in the United States. On record, Standardized tests promote racial bias and promote conformity rather than ingenuity. Conformity stifles the ability for society to learn what it means to be a collective human race. Standardized tests undermine the purpose of our educational system and must be rejected.
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by retroz 10 months ago
This is possibly the worst NSDA PFD topic I've ever seen... It is so specific and it isn't interesting. The topics for PFD and LD seem to be getting worse each year.
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