The use of standardized tests at both high school and elementary school levels has become the norm in the modern education world. Educators have found the need to make education a uniform activity that brings together students of all calibres within a given locality or state.
Standardized test have their advantages to both the student and the teachers. (Schon, D. 1987). Such benefits include: students being measured at grade level in a controlled setting. This is advantageous in the sense that one gets to gauge his/her performance at each grade level. Examination questions are set to cater for all the students ranging from fast learners to slower learners. No student has an advantage over the other since the set exam is a reflection of what has been taught at that particular grade level. Students having access to the same learning resources are given equal opportunities to prove their levels of competence in that particular course or subject.
Standardized tests can be used as a pre and post assessment strategies. In pre assessment, the students are exposed to a test during the beginning of the course. This helps the teacher to know what areas to emphasize and what areas to avoid wasting time on. Pre assessment also helps the teacher determine the teaching strategies he/she will employ in the teaching process. For instance, during the start of a course or lesson, the teacher can know ho to group the students in terms of their levels of competence to enable faster learning. The most proficient students can then be used to impart knowledge on the poorer students through group discussions and assisting fellow students. Pre assessment also helps the teacher to develop a course content based on what the students would like to be taught and what they ought to be taught as per the syllabus. The tutor then chooses the method of teaching for instance starting with the simple rules or what most of the class know to the complex rules. This gives the students enough time to discern what is being taught therefore quickening acquisition of knowledge.
Standardized exams are also useful at the post assessment stage where the teacher gets to know if he has been successful in achieving the predicted outcomes made at the beginning of a course/ subject. This also helps the students to judge their levels of competence. Criterion tests, such as FCAT, measure what was supposed to be learned. It informs the teacher of what he left out or what he did not conclusively teach his students. The students are also reminded on what they learnt and also what they need to focus on in order to improve their grades.
Such tests can point out the weaknesses and strengths of the teacher, as well as the student, when looked at over time (multiple years).
Standardization is also important as a tool for the administration to measure the ability of a teacher in delivering knowledge to the students. Better overall performance by the students in a given grade indicates that the teacher is successful in ensuring that the knowledge is disseminated equally across all students. The administration can then evaluate their teaching staffs’ competence in the job.
These tests can be used by the teacher as a starting point for picture of the students. This means that the teacher ids able to identify the slow and fast learners in a class and therefore based on his findings adjust his teaching mode or employ the use of more examples for most students to easily grasp whatever is discussed in class.
Norm-referenced tests, such as the NRT measure students against national standards. This gives rise to a national breed of academic experts. Instead of focusing only at the school level, such national examinations/ tests put students all over the nation at same level. This brings about fairness and equity in terms of the quality of education offered in the country.
Cons of standardized tests
Despite the pros of the Standardized testing methods, this strategy has in the past been misused and viewed in different ways. Some teachers use standardized tests results to judge the total picture of the student. This is wrong on many levels. We know that there are several factors that can contribute to failure in a test. Such factors include environmental and social factors. Some kids are lousy test- takers. Some may have had a bad day (the dog died, Mom and Dad were fighting, etc.). Furthermore a kid might be disturbed emotionally or psychologically hence interfering with his memory of learned habits.
Other factors such as lack of attention from the parents’ side, exhaustion and tiredness can cause the kid to fail a test. A pupil’s/ student’s competence should not be entirely pegged on his/ her performance in a test.
Test results can be used for retention. When third graders are vomiting and have mouth ulcers and a variety of other stress-induced maladies, there is something wrong. It is therefore unfair for the teacher to reprimand a student based on the outcome of a single test.
In some schools, the teachers concentrate on teaching kids how to pass an examination at the expense of the overall curriculum. Standard tests at the national or regional levels are sometimes viewed as competions by teachers who in turn concentrate their focus on how to make the students answer examination question.
Use of portfolios as a tool of instruction and informal assessment
Elementary schools use portfolios in classrooms as part of ongoing assignments Hart, D. (1994). A portfolio gives evidence that learning has indeed taken place. They can be used by both teachers and parents to assess the performance of the kids over a given time duration.
Portfolios should be used at every grade level. Consider it as jigsaw puzzle. Each piece of information makes the picture of the child just a little clearer.
The can be used both at the formative and summative levels of assessment. For instance, a teacher could introduce the concept by giving each student a jigsaw puzzle piece and asking them to decide what the picture will be.
Kids can work on written assignments over time duration, they compete with their fellow students within the same grade or school and the winning kids present the best assignment at a show case or congress at the regional level or state level.
Portfolios can in this can in this case be used to instruct the participating students on how present their work neatly and cohesively for a good prize at the competions. The teachers can use this example to assess the ability and competence of a kid or student or a group of students in any given course or subject. Assessment in this case happens as the students or kid in the elementary school carry on with their projects or what we call long term assignments. Evaluation is made based on the level they have reached with the assignments.
Portfolio materials can be used by the teacher to give individual scores and also be used at the national level to rank a school. (Stecher, 1998).
According toWolf, A. (1998), portfolio can be used at the national level to assess the kids is by allowing the kids in elementary schools across the country to come up creative pieces of work and present them in a forum. They can be in turn awarded points and prizes based on their creativity. (Paul C. 2010)
To maintain a portfolio, the student needs to file all his marked work while the teacher monitors the portfolio regularly to check on the student’s progress. Snadden, D., Thomas, M., Challis, M. (1999)
What a Portfolio should contain
According to Hart, D. (1994), Portfolios should include, but not be limited to:
- Test score history
- FAIR results
- Cold-reads (actual tests)
- Mini-assessments in math and reading
- End of chapter tests
- Anecdotal notes made from observations of
- group participation activities (such as reciprocal teaching)
- Fluency probes
- AR reports
- Pictures of projects
- Writing samples
Also, in order to make the students accountable, they need to all record their scores from tests and projects, etc. Students need to reflect on progress, or lack of progress. It makes for more interesting data chats. In addition to this, both the student and the teacher should work together towards achieving successful results.
Hart, D. (1994). Authentic Assessment: A Handbook for Educators. Menlo Park, CA; Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.
Jud L. Paris, Jocelyn L. Paris: CliffNotes Praxis II: Elementary Education(0011, 0012, 0014) Canada. Wiley.Hoboken, NJ. Print
Paul C. 2010: voyages in third grade language arts. USA. Complete Curriculum
Schon, D. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner, San Francisco, C.A., Jossey-Bass.
Snadden, D., Thomas, M., Challis, M. (1999).Portfolio-based learning and ssessment, AMEE Guide No. 11.
Stecher, B. (1998). The local benefits and burdens of large-scale portfolio assessment, Assessment in Education 5(3).
Wolf, A. (1998). Portfolio Assessment as National Policy. The National Council for Vocational Qualifications and its quest for a pedagogical revolution, HSS in Education 5(3).