President Barack Obama and leaders of the teachers unions disagree with the view of citizens that schools, educators, and students should be held accountable for their performance on standardized tests. Despite strong public support for testing programs, influential educators have defined standardized tests as beasts that should be removed from schools. To quote one prominent critic, Gerald Bracey, they are "infernal machines of social destruction." Political leaders have also revealed a deep misunderstanding about the purpose and use of standardized testing when they claim tests are too simple or too biased to measure up to the subjective judgments of educators themselves. Such claims are naïve or deliberately misleading.
Research and experience show that standardized tests are generally good at measuring students’ knowledge, skills, and understandings because they are objective, fair, efficient, and comprehensive. For these reasons, they are used for decisions about admission to colleges, graduate programs, and professional schools as well as qualification and licensing for many skilled occupations and demanding professions such as law and medicine. Given the misleading information and expressed views of some politicians and union leaders, it is worthwhile to review here the more specific reasons for using standardized tests.
(photo credit: Shannan Muskopf)