Standardised testing should not be abolished.
Earlier, letsdebate1 approached me about debating, and we settled on the topic of standardised testing. Because of time constraints, I had to put it off until now. We hope it will be an interesting and fruitful debate!
The full resolution is as follows: 'Resolved: Standardised testing should not be abolished.'
Standardised testing: any form of test that (1) requires all test takers to answer the same questions, or a selection of questions from common bank of questions, in the same way, and that (2) is scored in a “standard” or consistent manner, which makes it possible to compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students.
1. Debate structure:
R1: Con accepts
R2: Both sides present opening arguments.
R3: Both sides present new arguments (if necessary) and rebuttals.
R4: Both sides present additional rebuttals and conclusions.
2. In general, all arguments should be posted inside the debate, but if you are really busy or there is a bug on DDO, I will accept arguments posted in the comments shortly after your forfeiture of the round. Sources can also be provided in comments.
3. BOP is shared. I will prove that standardised testing should not be abolioshed. Con will prove that it should.
4. If Con disagrees with any of these rules, he must inform me before accepting the debate so that they can be modified.
I thank my opponent for accepting the debate and for his patient in waiting for my arguments. I will now proceed to my arguments.
One of the biggest advantages of standardised testing is quantifiability. By definition, standardised tests are scored in a consistent manner, and all test-takers are required to complete the same questions. Thus the ability of individual students, classes, schools and districts can be objectively measured against averages in the class, school, district or nation. Such a measure is needed for numerous purposes, all of which have great importance. Abolishing standardised tests is thus not desirable. I will elaborate under two headings below.
SC1) Quantifying knowledge and ability
An important purpose of standardised testing is to gauge students' knowledge and ability. Schools can use this measure to decide how to allocate resources to facilitate teaching. For example, supplementary lessons and homework can be given to low achievers, and classes can be formed according to ability, so there are fewer discrepancies in each class and teachers can teach more effectively, focusing on basic knowledge when teaching lower achievers and speeding to more advanced concepts when teaching more capable students. Abolishing standardised testing makes this type of assessment much harder to carry out.
The measure is also essential for university entrance. For example, in Hong Kong, our universities select students through the JUPAS system. Students' results in the HKDSE, a comprehensive standardised test, are sent to universities through the system. Individual faculties or departments will then weigh the students' scores with a formula (for example, a science faculty might allocate greater weight to Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology). It would be unthinkable to abolish the HKDSE, or the universities will no longer have any objective criterion on which to assess applicants. Dr Richard P. Phelps, an expert on standardised testing, noted that abolishing standardised testing will lead to 'large-scale institution of remedial programs in colleges to compensate for any deficiencies of instruction in elementary and secondary schools'. (4)
SC2) Quantifying the effectiveness of teaching
Standardised tests measure teaching prowess. Parents choosing schools for their children, for example, can rely on these objective statistics to choose a school who will likely improve their children's academic performance. This also motivates schools to improve their examination results. If they improve them, capable students will be more likely to choose their school, further boosting their results. This creates a virtuous circle.
Statistics from standardised tests are also important for policy planning. Governments can use these stats to determine the relative success of different schools so as to formulate strategies to improve pedagogy. For example, if it's found that a school scoring high in maths adopted a certain strategy, the government can introduce it to other schools.
Schools can also use these results to assess the teaching prowess of their teachers. If some teachers are found to be incompetent or lazy, the school can urge them to improve accordingly (such as by providing training courses or threatening demotion if no improvement is shown).
As you can see from the above, scores from standardised tests are a good way to measure the effectiveness of pedagogy. Thus they should not be done away with.
Standardised tests are fair because objective criteria are used to assess performance. Multiple-choice questions are generally marked using a scanner and computer. For DBQs and essay-type questions, marking schemes are fixed and usually rigid, so the risk of bias, favouritism and subjective interpretation is minimised. For example, a teacher cannot give a student a lower grade because of s/he does not agree with what the student wrote, as long as the student provided most of the points in the marking scheme. The majority of students agree: 79% found the questions in standardised testing 'fair', according to a 2006 study. (3) Should we abolish standardised testing, we would have to rely on grades given by teachers, which is very problematic. According to research, teachers often consider factors other than competence when they grade students, including 'student participation, perceived effort, progress over the period of the course, and comportment'. (4)
Moreover, all students face the same questions and are put on the same curve. Without standardised testing, we can only use a student's internal results to measure his performance. However, this is not fair as many schools may thus inflate students' scores to improve their chances of success, such as by using easier test questions. Also, if a school is weak in a particular area, say English, then it will be much easier to score an A in English in that school. This is unfair to students studying in schools that are great at English.
Therefore, a standardised approach is the only fair method to assess students, and standardised tests should not be abolished.
C3) Increased motivation
SC1) Teachers' motivation
Teachers may feel accomplished if their classes have superior results in standardised tests, and shame if their classes do worse than average. I'll give an admittedly anectodal example for illustration purposes only. More than a decade ago, the classes of one of my teachers did very badly in the former HKCEE examination. The principle shamed him in front of all the teachers, declaring an explanation. Since that year, he has worked very hard to improve his teaching methods, prepare better notes and even to arrangd all the past test questions by topic for students for drilling. This greatly boosted his students' results; at one time, 30% got an A and 80% got Credit or above. To this day, he remains one of the most popular teachers because of his dedication towards teaching. Standardised tests motivate teachers to improve teaching methods, and their abolition would remove this pressure on teachers. Thus they should not be abolished.
SC2) Students' motivation
Measuring students' abilities motivates them to improve these abilities. Economist Dan Ariely said, 'If we want to change what they care about, we should change what we measure.' (1) If students know their ability will be assessed, they will have greater impetus to work hard and succeed in these tests.
Standardised tests give students a clear goal as to what they want to achieve and what they should do to achieve it:
-There is a clearly defined curriculum that determines what will and won't be tested. There are fewer worries that they will be tested on material they have not prepared for.
-Question types are more or less fixed, so students can drill themselves on the common question types to achieve greater gain in the test. In a non-standardised test, however, this is not possible; they may have to complete questions of a type they have never tried before.
-Past papers are generally available, so students can easily familiarise themselves with the types of questions they will come across, the most commonly tested material, how their work will be marked and so on. For example, according to rubrics from past papers, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority believes that unemployment has three costs: increase in crime rate, loss of skills and loss of output; the cost of retraining workers is explicitly excluded. Were the test not standardised, we wouldn't be sure if the cost of retraining workers is a cost of unemployment. Thanks to standardised testing and past papers, we can be sure.
A clear curriculum, fixed question types and past papers allow students to achieve a good grade more easily than in a non-standardised test, where there are many variables they cannot predict before taking the test (including the question types, materials tested and the acceptability of answers). Therefore, standardised tests grant students, in economic terms, greater returns at lower risk, and thus motivate students to work harder.Statistically, it cannot be denied that standardised testing encourages students to work harder. In fact, 93% of the studies related to standardised testing done in the last 100 years found a positive impact on student achievement as a result of standardised testing. (2) The passing rate of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System rose from 45% in 1999, the year of its introduction, to 67% in 2002. (5) Given this stat, there is no reason for us to abolish standardised testing again.
C4) Develop positive attributes like perseverance, diligence, etc.
Standardised testing is a good way for students to learn skills, values and attitudes like perseverance and diligence. They often have a large curriculum that involves not only memorisation but also the acqusition of a wide variety of skills and abilities. For example, in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education determines our future. Once we step into Senior Secondary (~high school), we have three years to prepare for this all-important test. This is an important test of our perseverance, diligence, concentration and resilience. Preparing for a high-stakes test is an important life event that allows us to develop these important attributes and prepare ourselves for life after school.
(2) Richard P. Phelps, "The Effect of Testing on Achievement: Meta-Analyses and Research Summary, 1910–2010,” Nonpartisan Education Review, Apr. 2011
Since we've agreed to redo this later, I will not present any more arguments during the debate.
letsdebate1 forfeited this round.
letsdebate1 forfeited this round.