Standardized Testing Criticisms

Description: This class describes the criticisms of standardized testing.

While standardized tests supposedly provide a tool to objectively compare test-takers, they have come under criticism based on a number of factors.

Many people criticize both the content and process of standardized testing as culturally inappropriate. The detractors claim that the content is biased based on what might be relevant to one cultural group over another. For example, test-takers new to the U.S. won’t have learned the same information on the country’s history as those who grew up in this country. In addition, the concept of what characterizes intelligence differs from one culture to the next.

Other criticisms come from the way different parts of these tests are presented. For instance, math sections often present problems in narrative. So while the test supposedly measures only mathematical ability, the test-taker must have a certain level of reading comprehension skills to understand the problem.

Another common criticism is that standardized tests encourage teachers to focus on subjects covered in the tests and neglect others. However, each test has many versions, and if they differ significantly, teachers won’t know what each administration of a test will cover. Little research has been done to validate or refute these claims.

Some critics argue that standardized tests measure test-taking ability as much as knowledge, giving an advantage to those who are better at taking tests over others who are not, even though they have the same skills. In addition, some teachers might teach test-taking skills more than others, which can also affect how test-takers from different schools score compared to each other.

While standardized tests are intended to provide an objective basis to assess students from different backgrounds, much criticism stems from the fact that wealthier students can afford test-prep courses, giving them a great advantage over those of lesser means. As a result, many argue that test scores reflect resources rather than merit, creating a bias toward those from higher social classes.

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