Are Standardized Tests Valuable? 72% Of Teachers Say “No”

Only 28% of teachers believe standardized tests have significant value as measures of student performance, according to a new report published jointly by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Primary Sources: 2012: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession,” was released March 16 at WNET’s Celebration of Teaching and Learning in New York. Based on a survey of more than 10,000 public school teachers, the survey finds that only 28 percent of educators see state-required standardized tests as an essential or very important gauge of student achievement. In addition, only 26 percent of teachers say standardized tests are an accurate reflection of what students know.

What’s Wrong With Standardized Tests?

*  One potential explanation for those low marks lies in another of the survey’s findings—that is, only 45 percent of teachers think their students take standardized tests seriously or perform to the best of their ability on them.

*  All states have standards, which should guide classroom instruction, both in the curriculum and in the way the material is presented and tested. However, state standards and state standardized tests are not always correlated, and often not well-matched to contemporary teaching and learning goals.

*  It makes no sense to evaluate students only on standardized tests, administered over one or two days in the school year. Instead, all students should be evaluated using multiple measures, so that their performance throughout the year is monitored. Many students freak out at the sight of a “high-stakes” test.

*  Grading teachers based on their students’ standardized test scores, a practice that is appearing in districts across the country, is unfair. The tests are often not well designed, but in addition, no teacher can choose which students he has in his class. I’ve had students who are very strong one year, and very weak the next year. Don’t grade me on my students’ differences.

How To Solve The Problem Of Standardized Tests

Overall, according to the report, teachers see ongoing formative assessments, class participation, and performance on class assignments as much more important measures of student learning. At the same time, most teachers (85 percent) agree that their students’ growth over the course of the year should contribute significantly to evaluations of their own performance.

From Education Week:

At a conference panel discussion on the Scholastic-Gates report, Margery Mayer, president of Scholastic Education, said the findings speak to the need to use multiple measures to evaluate teachers’ impact on student learning. On questioning from session moderator Chelsea Clinton, in addition, Gates Foundation president Allan Golston reiterated his organization’s opposition to the public release of the value-added ratings, saying it was “counterproductive” in terms of conducting meaningful evaluations of teachers.

The Gates Foundation’s position, especially in connection with the findings in the new report, is significant because the organization has widely been perceived as being an influential proponent of increasing the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.


Teacher-effectiveness authority Charlotte Danielson added that “not a single one of the 21st-century skills can be assessed on a multiple-choice test.” She said that the appeal of standardized test scores is that they “give you a number” but that teaching is too complex to be captured in that way.

Teachers Fleeing Public Schools For The Private Sector

So there we have it. One result of the huge importance that standardized tests now hold in public education is that many teachers, including myself, have forsaken public schools for private schools, where we are not bound by these restrictions.

And let’s all take a look at the education system in Finland, which ranks consistently at the top of international surveys of education. In that country, students only take standardized tests once during their high school careers, in the very last year.

What’s your opinion on standardized tests?

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Photo Credit: istock


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson6 years ago

they harp on how important the tests are to our future. they get kids so worked up about their importance and tell them that if they don't do well on ONE test they may have to repeat a grade or a course. The stress is immense. So when you sit down to the test your anxiety level is ridiculous, even if you feel prepared. Performing well under that level of stress can be difficult. I always did really well on tests, but I was sympathetic to those who I KNEW were smart and who tried hard but didn't do well under the pressure. Standardized tests are an easy "solution" to a complicated problem, but it simply doesn't work

Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago

In response to the question, absolutely not!

J C Bro
J C Brou6 years ago


Mike and Janis B.
Janis B6 years ago

We did standardised tests back in the 60s. Didn't hurt us a bit, but it did mean that teachers had to actually teach the course work. Basics have to be taught to every child. that is the doorway out of a miserable life.

Myron Scott
Myron Scott6 years ago

Johnathan Kozol on No Child Left Behind
mandatory standardized testing:

The poisonous essence of this law lies
in the mania of obsessive testing it has forced
upon our nation's schools and, in the case of
underfunded, overcrowded inner-city schools,
the miserable drill-and-kill curriculum of robotic
"teaching to the test" it has imposed on teachers,
the best of whom are fleeing from these schools
because they know that this debased curriculum
would never have been tolerated in the good
suburban schools that they, themselves, attended.

- Why I am Fasting: An Explanation to My Friends

Ruby W.
Ruby W6 years ago

As someone who consistently scored in the top five percent on every standardized test I've ever taken from early elementary school until now, I can say they are pretty meaningless. I am a bookworm and literature nut with a logical, skeptical mind - that last being a requirement to pass the tests - a trusting soul will bomb. But I had a D average from kindergarten until I dropped out at sixteen because I rarely did any homework. I was too busy inhaling every library within reach. I've gone to college on and off and am still completing my BS at age 35. Yeah, I'm smart. I also have a myriad of mild learning disabilities and (to be completely honest) an attitude problem. My graphic and web designer husband is incredibly brilliant at what he does and consistently got mediocre scores in school because of the "creativity problem" with the tests. A good many of his answers are simply off-the-wall, get counted as wrong, and bring down his score lots. My brother is an amazingly successful recording studio engineer. He got mediocre scores and some bad grades in school because he wasn't interested in much besides music, technology, and sports (not team sports, he was a skateboarder and rollerblader who played paintball). He dropped out of high school and delivered pizza for a while, got into DJing, taught himself music technology and then went to school for it (which luckily my father could afford to pay for). These tests fail to take into account the very basics of modern education: peo

Tim C.
Tim C6 years ago


wesley a.
wes Allen6 years ago

Standardized tests are a big problem in schools. By using standardized tests the kids are only taught what they need to know to pass the tests.

Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey6 years ago

There is only one group that benefits from standardized tests.

Testing firms.

Who are making money hand over fist.

Allen Pierce
Allen Pierce6 years ago

Question. Was this a survey of 10,000 teachers in New York? That point was not made clear, to me at least. I am not familier with the teaching system in NY, and do not know how the standard tests given there relate to the way the curriculum is laid out.

In WA, the state had adopted a standard test, the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning), which was given between 1997 and 2009, before it was abandoned for a "better" system, two assessments, the Measurement of Student Learning, for grades 3-8, and a High School Proficiency Exam, for grades 9-12. I have heard very little about these new tests, but as long as teachers are teaching "to the test" the students will not be properly served. Funding for education is cut every year, with things like music, art and drama completely cut in favor of football and the 3 R's. Children need more than "just the basics" in order to develop into well rounded human beings. Education is the one thing that every child MUST have, and which pays for itself with interest when they get it. A standardized test will never be able to evaluate something so individual as a good education because that is something different for every individual.