Standardized tests are like:
A bridge too far
stitch in time
fly in the ointment
skeleton in the closet
camel's nose under the tent
screen door in a submarine
credit: Define the adage!)
blame legislators for the growing prominence of standardized tests, the
public seems to love them. An analysis of public-opinion data published
in 1998 (see "The Demand for Standardized" in the bibliography),
found large majorities making positive noises about testing.
Phelps, with the American Institutes for Research, looked for every public-opinion
poll on the subject. These are some of his results:
1.) Standardized tests help improve education.
In 1997, an NBC
News-Wall Street Journal poll found 70 percent of American adults agreed
"using standardized national tests to measure the academic achievement
of students would improve the achievement of students in the local public
schools a great deal [or] quite a lot."
Should we establish a national school exam system?
Phelps found an
average difference of 43 percentage points between positive and negative
responses. Once the math-challenged minds at The Why Files solved simultaneous
equations (x + y = 100; x + 43 = y), we learned that 61.5 percent of
respondents in the polls, on average, favored more national tests, while
28.5 opposed them.
The public favors "voluntary" national tests like those proposed by Presidents
Bush and Clinton.
A 1997 poll by
CNN-USA Today found 68 percent in favor. Tests are the best way to measure
student progress. False. Fifty-eight percent of respondents told a 1990
CBS news poll that teacher evaluations were paramount. Tied in a distant
second place were grades and tests, with 18 percent each.
Teachers have qualms about standardized tests.
A 1997 poll by
the educational group Phi
Delta Kappa International found a 36 percentage point difference
between the majority, which said there was excess standardized testing,
and the minority that thought there was too little.
The public likes
standardized tests. Teachers hate them. Are there alternatives?