Are Standardized Assessments Necessary?

Juliana Owens taking test (Emily Tulloch)

Juliana Owens taking ‘test’ (Emily Tulloch)

Emily Tulloch, Writer

For decades, teachers, students, and parents have long debated this question: Are standardized tests necessary? Many students crack under the pressure of a test, resulting in scores that do not truly reflect their intellectual ability. Others say that tests can be anxiety-provoking, acting as merely another stressor. But, do they hold value?

A recent survey conducted by students of various ages, genders, and backgrounds, helped to gather information about differing opinions on the topic. 90 percent of students said that they had from two-to-four tests weekly, making it difficult for them to focus their attention on one area. Work, sports, homework, and other extracurricular commitments in addition to studying for these tests force students to adjust their sleep schedules and de-prioritize time spent socially.

The survey also reflected students’ stress level. 90 percent of students said that their stress level when approaching a test is at a seven and above; the other ten percent rated their stress at a six. This is a very high level of stress with ten being the highest, with some students even putting a 9. The stress from these tests is creating focus issues, anxiety, and even behavioral problems.

One potential solution is moving away from standardized assessments and finding a new way to evaluate students. 90 percent of students say that they perform better on projects and in-class assignments because they feel it is a less stressful environment and more realistic way to work. Teachers could incorporate more assessment opportunities into their curriculum that stray from the traditional testing mold, knowing the benefits that it has on students’ mental health.

One anonymous student shares this sentiment, saying, “Sometimes [the tests] are good for wrapping up units or testing for skills, but not always. Usually projects and other types of assessments can demonstrate knowledge better and cause less stress.”

Finally, the survey gathered quotes from students about their opinion on a test evaluating their knowledge. One student said,“I do not feel that quizzes/tests truly evaluate my understanding of a subject because of the stress and pressure they cause… I think projects are a much better form of assessment because they don’t cause as much stress, and the same, if not a higher level of understanding is portrayed through them.”

Alternately, one student said, “I feel that assessments are sometimes the only good way to evaluate your learnings and understandings.” However, they finished by reiterating that, “…students should be assessed in more ways than just test taking.” 

Overall, it is not necessary to move completely away from these assessments. However, schools should start creating more options and less stressful ways of test taking in order to properly evaluate students.