How do schools use standardized tests?
Despite their biases, inaccuracies, limited ability to measure achievement or ability, and other flaws, schools use standardized tests to determine if children are ready for school, track them into instructional groups; diagnose for learning disability, retardation and other handicaps; and decide whether to promote, retain in grade, or graduate many students. Schools also use tests to guide and control curriculum content and teaching methods.
Aren’t these valid uses of test scores?
No test is good enough to serve as the sole or primary basis for important educational decisions. Readiness tests, used to determine if a child is ready for school, are very inaccurate and encourage the use of overly academic, developmentally inappropriate primary schooling (that is, schooling not appropriate to the child’s emotional, social or intellectual development and to the variation in children’s development). Screening tests for disabilities are often not adequately validated; that is, it is not proven that they are accurately measuring for disabilities. They also promote a view of children as having deficits to be corrected, rather than having individual differences and strengths on which to build. While screening tests are supposed to be used to refer children for further diagnosis, they often are used to place children in special programs. Tracking hurts slower students and mostly does not help more advanced students. Retention in grade, or flunking or leaving a student back, is almost always academically and emotionally harmful, not helpful. Test content is a very poor basis for determining curriculum content, and teaching methods based on the test are themselves harmful.
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