The Misuse of Standardized Tests

Standardized tests are being used for many important decisions in Florida. They are a major determining factor in student progress and retention. They have an impact on teacher evaluation scores, which are directly tied to their pay and can lead to dismissal in some cases. State-mandated tests are also the sole determining factor in school grades at the elementary level, and a major factor for middle and high school grades. Many parents make important decisions based on school grades, such as which neighborhood in which to live.

Given this, it helps to take a closer look at whether standardized tests are a valid measurement of student learning, teacher quality or school quality. The following research presents the dangers of using standardized tests for high stakes decisions like what is currently being done in Florida.

Standardized tests and learning

  • Why Standardized Tests Don’t Measure Education Quality, by W. James Popham, UCLA Emeritus Professor.
  • A study from MIT, Harvard and Brown University indicated that high standardized test scores do not translate to better cognition.
  • Research from a UCLA professor shows why standardized tests don’t measure educational quality.
  • A Stanford University study shows how stereotypes prevent standardized tests from accurately  measuring student performance.
  • This article references a whitepaper from the Central Florida School Board Coalition about the misuse of standardized tests in Florida, including examples of how changing cut scores and introducing new calculations such as learning gains significantly affects outcomes.
  • Research conducted by a Professor at Arizona State University with a PhD in Educational Psychology focusing on testing statistics and research. His interpretation is that there are many unaddressed reasons that standardized tests are not valid, and therefore it is dangerous to place a large amount of weight or stakes on the tests, especially if they are not corroborated by other more valid measures such as class grades.
  • Research from a Professor at Northwestern University, saying that public policy makers are placing too much emphasis on standardized tests as a valid measure of student performance, noting that many of the technical reasons the tests are not valid are often ignored when decisions are made about their use.
  • Research from Washington State University tying parental income to standardized test scores.
  • Researchers use census data to accurately predict test results, indicating a clear connection to factors outside of school control.
  • A study conducted by several faculty members at U.S. universities indicating that standardized test scores have gender and ethnicity bias.
  • A study from a professor at the University of Illinois concluded that college readiness decreases when schools focus on test scores.
  • A nine-year study by the National Research Council concluded that the emphasis on testing does not significantly increase learning, but actually causes harm.
  • Research from professors from Bates University indicates that SAT and ACT tests are not valid indicators of future success.
  • A political scientist at the University of Massachusetts presents research about how the increase in standardized testing is driving parents away from their schools.

Standardized tests and evaluating teachers

  • American Statistical Association says VAM (value-added method) is not a reliable way to measure teacher quality. While the state-mandated VAM requirement was removed in 2017, many districts are still using it because the state statute still requires that teachers be evaluated based on student progression.
  • Research published by the Economic Policy Institute presents the problems with using student test scores to evaluate teachers.
  • Fairtest.org presents strong research, with sources noted, about why standardized tests are not a valid measure of teacher quality.
  • This article includes a video from Florida teacher, Luke Flynt, with hard facts about flaws in the state’s value-added-measurement (VAM) system, which ties teacher performance evaluations to test scores, noting specific instances of how his students’ higher than perfect scores actually brought his evaluating rating down.
  • Professor David Berliner at Arizona State University demonstrates why standardized tests reflect the demographics of the students who are tested and ignore teacher behavior.
  • Working paper from a professor and student at Brown University indicating that increasing test scores do not correlate to quality teaching.
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