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The Effects of Standardized Tests on Teachers and Students

by Alicia Anthony

Standardized testing has become a way of life for teachers and students across the United States. For better or for worse, it doesn't look like the tests will be going away anytime soon. Many studies have been launched to determine the effects of standardized tests on students and the teachers who administer the exams. These studies have found both positive and negative effects created by state-mandated assessments.

Positive Effects on Teachers

Teachers in higher-achieving schools report feeling more pride and instructional innovation within their schools.

In schools where test scores are steadily increasing, teachers report that instruction is more innovative and higher-order thinking skills are addressed more often in the classroom setting. Those same teachers feel that they hold a greater stake in decision-making within their schools. Teachers in successful schools report that there is an overall higher standard for student performance and that teachers take more pride in their work. It is important to note, however, that lower-achieving schools do not share these opinions.

Negative Effects on Teachers

Test-prep practice takes away from higher-order thinking instruction.

An incredible amount of pressure is placed on teachers to ensure an increase in achievement on standardized tests. This pressure is often wielded by administrators who draw attention to the test by reviewing scores with the entire staff and applying praise or reprimands based solely on test scores. This pressure often results in drill-and-practice-type instruction. Curriculum scope and sequence are sometimes modified in schools to cover specific test-taking skills and topics. Significant time is devoted to test preparation, including review worksheets and practice tests. These activities take away from higher-order thinking instruction, which has been proven to have more long-term benefits for students.

Positive Effects on Students

Some students benefit from test-practice instruction.

Some students benefit from the type of instruction that occurs during test-prep practice. Students who need drills and practice to learn specific subject matter will see benefits to their knowledge base. Students who score well on the standardized tests feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Schools, teachers and parents often publicly praise these students for their achievement. Yet, what happens in the minds of the students who didn't score well?

Negative Effects on Students

Students who are unable to obtain a proficient test score often feel frustrated or inadequate.

Students, like teachers, feel an inordinate amount of pressure to be successful on state standardized tests. Students who struggle feel frustration as they are faced with a test beyond their current skill set, while higher-achieving students feel resentment at what they perceive to be the slow pace of learning as teachers prepare students through repetitive test practice. Overall, these tests do not measure some of the traits that are most important in education. Innovation, creativity and love of learning are arguably the most important traits for students to have in today's world. However, standardized tests measure none of those traits. Subjecting students to incessant drills and practice under the guise of test preparation does them few favors in the long run.

About the Author

Alicia Anthony is a seasoned educator with more than 10 years classroom experience in the K-12 setting. She holds a Master of Education in literacy curriculum and instruction and a Bachelor of Arts in communications. She is completing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing: fiction, and working on a novel.

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