There are few topics in the world of education more heavily debated than standardized testing. Is it even necessary? Does it accurately reflect the curriculum for each grade level? Is it an accurate measuring stick for student success?

Parents and teachers alike question the validity and accuracy of state-mandated testing for students with diverse learning styles and socioeconomic backgrounds. Here are a few of the pros and cons of standardized testing.

The Benefits of Standardized Testing

Although everyone can agree standardized testing could use some improvements, there are concrete benefits to using it as a tool. Here are a few positive things about standardized testing.

It establishes a universal standard for learning.

As the name implies, standardized testing creates some level of uniformity in the curriculum in every school from the same state. This ensures that students in all geographic locations are exposed to the same quality of material and are striving for the same learning goals.

It holds teachers accountable.

If you or your child has every experienced a truly lazy teacher, you can easily see how important this is.

Standardized testing provides measurable evidence if a teacher is underperforming so fewer students will be stuck with gaps in their education. Conversely, the testing also spotlights hardworking teachers who are helping their students shine.

It provides parents with more information.

Standardized testing offers a completely objective picture of areas where your student excels and areas where they need to improve. This helps teachers and parents to identify struggles a student might be facing on an annual basis so that they can catch up to their peers more quickly.

The Problems with Standardized Testing

While standardized testing is theoretically a helpful tool, it can sometimes restrict teachers and students in practice. Here are a few of the negative aspects of standardized testing.

It only offers students one chance for evaluation.

While some students perfectly comfortable demonstrating their knowledge in a written test, other students panic from the excessive pressure.

With annual standardized testing, there is only one opportunity to perform well. If a student cracks from the pressure associated with the test, he might not provide an accurate representation of his accumulated knowledge.

It restricts creativity for teachers.

Now that teachers are evaluated based on their test scores, they must alter their lesson plans to focus on the hyper-specific skills required for one particular test. This often stifles proactive teachers who want to plan engaging, hands-on lessons for their classes each day.

It doesn’t always measure total growth.

While testing offers a snapshot of what a student has learned by the date of the test, it can’t measure how much the student has improved throughout the year.

If a student reads at a second-grade level and the beginning of the school year and improves to a fifth-grade level by the date of his test, he might still underperform on a sixth-grade reading test despite making massive improvements throughout the year.

It can affect students’ self-esteem.

If a hardworking student is struggling with the core principles in a certain subject despite his best efforts, underperforming on a standardized test can make him feel like a failure.

It affects federal funding.

In many school districts, the amount of funding each school receives is based entirely on standardized testing scores. This puts excessive pressure on teachers and fosters unnecessary competition between educators with the same end goals.

The Future of Standardized Testing

Based on some of the problems standardized testing leaves in its wake, some states are reducing its impact in schools.

Starting in 2020, high school students in Washington state will no longer need to pass a state-issued test to graduate.

In Virginia, annual state-issued tests will be replaced by locally developed performance analyses. This new methodology will begin with 2022’s high school freshmen.

Creating a balance between using standardized testing as a measuring stick while still encouraging holistic teaching and learning methods may provide the key to the future of American education.