Since the proposal of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, education has been a hot button issue in the United States. At the center of the debate on education is standardized testing. The initial goal of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act was to identify and fix failing schools. The No Child Left Behind Act also increased the number of federally-mandated tests from six to seventeen. The objective was to close the gap between U.S. international test scores, on tests such as the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA). President Obama had a different approach, which criticized standardized testing. He introduced the Race to the Top program, which encouraged states to adopt the common core standards. The objective of the program has been to reduce and eliminate the gap between major economic and racial disparities in the quality of education children receive. Despite President Obama’s critical stance, this proliferation of testing has become more prominent than ever. However, this buildup of testing has led to a plethora of problems and complaints. One issue that has been highly debated is how states have started attaching teacher pay to student performance on standardized testing through the creation of a system known as “value added analysis,” which rates teachers based on student test score improvement and predictions. Other problems range from an increase in child anxiety to general dissatisfaction with education reform.
Such issues have sparked an uproar and movement against standardized testing. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which measures whether states meet the benchmark established by the Common Core State Standards curriculum, has come under fire in state legislatures recently. In May, the Illinois House passed a bill that grants parents the opportunity to opt their children out of taking standardized tests. In New Jersey, the State Senate panel approved a bill that restricts the state from holding back funds from schools that have low PARCC participation rates. Some state legislation, such as that of Ohio House, has even gone as far as eliminating the PARCC test altogether.
All of these developments beg the question: are standardized tests even worth it, and are they even working? In the 2000 PISA test the U.S. was ranked (out of 41 countries) #20 for math, #15 for reading, and #16 for science. However, over a decade later, U.S. test scores have not gone up, but have actually gone down. In the 2012 PISA test the U.S. was ranked (out of 65 countries) #36 for math, #28 for reading, and #24 for science. Education reform in the U.S. for the most part has been a failure. The government has and probably will continue to sponsor standardized testing; however, for legislatures to require such tests by law is not only absurd, but also unreasonable. If these test(s) are not working and even have a negative effect, then why should such testing be enforced by law? Something that generates a negative externality should not be required by law.
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Written By: Austin Lew, Intern; Edited By: Adam Nicolai
July 6, 2015