We Need To Quit Using Standardized Tests As The Yardstick.

Lee Mac Arthur
3 min readDec 1, 2022

Unfortunately, standardized tests have been around forever but over time they have been made the yardstick by which people gauge how well a school is doing. I remember taking them when I was growing up but they were not used to determine how effective my teacher was.

Now standardized test results for the whole school are posted as part of the report card to the public. It tells people how many were considered proficient in math, reading, and writing, how many are below, well below, and above. People read the reports and decide based on those results how “good” a school it is. I was living in Colorado when they decided to respond to the bottom 2% but it was written in such a way that eventually even the best schools would be in trouble.

The problem with the results is that they provide a snapshot for a particular point in time. They do not tell you if the student is in special education or if the student is an English Language Learner. The results do not tell you that the students missed a ton of school because mama had to work and needed a babysitter for the day.

Neither do the results tell you if the student has experienced some form of trauma such as sexual abuse at home. It also doesn’t tell you that the student didn’t get any sleep the night before due to all adults being drunk and noisy. Then there are the students who saw their parent kill another parent before committing suicide the night before.

In many locations in the United States, people do not have to worry about any of these things because they live in what is considered a normal household but too many students face these things everyday. So when they arrive to take the test, they are already at a disadvantage.

They arrive tired, grouchy, and possibly hungry and then have to take a test that lasts for up to all day long. They can’t think properly and struggle to take the test. They end up frustrated and often shut down completely so they just mark answers to get done with it.

This means that students often end up with results that do not accurately reflect what they know, especially after missing multiple days due to COVID. Right now, many, many students are behind because they’ve missed school but we shouldn’t place so much emphasis on the results of standardized testing.

The results should be used as a starting place for teachers. The results can help teachers decide what they need to cover, review, and scaffold but the results should be used in conjunction with other information. I know some schools use MAPS testing but I know students who get equally frustrated with those. Assessment should happen throughout the year but states love standardized tests because everyone takes the same test which gives them a commonality they can use to compare.

Let’s focus more on the individual students, figuring out how to advance them rather than trying to rate schools overall without taking into account what is going on with students outside of school. Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear. Have a great day.