Children growing up in America today are familiar with SATs, or standardized tests that measure student performance on basic educational standards. These standardized tests are not only used to measure student performance, but also measure school performance. Depending on student performance, the school will be evaluated for funding, additional tutoring, an enhanced curriculum, or the possibility of new or more teachers. Those multiple choice questions on SATs can really help or hurt a school. Are standardized tests really the best way to measure school performance?
In early America, standardize tests consisted of written essays and oral exams. It wasn’t until the early 1900s when multiple-choice standardized tests were introduced. Multiple-choice questions helped to streamline the process of test evaluation. It wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s when standardized testing became widespread, encouraged by the government as a way to measure student and school performance across the board, and in 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act made this a federal requirement. Essay testing has only been a part of standardized testing in the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs. These programs cultivate and test students who perform at a higher level than federal standards.
Although the No Child Left Behind Act encouraged standardized testing as a measure of school performance, the Race to the Top act passed by Congress during President Obama’s term encourages state and school initiative in educational reform and performance. The Race to the Top act seems to be a positive step towards encouraging initiative and creative thinking on the part of teachers and educators, rather than an SAT board.
While standardized testing can help evaluate school and student performance, testing like this seems cursory and too generalized to be effective and to encourage the creativity, applied thinking, and initiative needed to teach students. It is vital that federal programs encourage schools to go above and beyond standardized testing.