Traditionally, standardized assessments have been widely used in measuring academic progress. However, many researchers have wondered if standardized assessments are sufficient to measure the student’s progress. Furthermore, researchers have widely questioned the effects standardized assessments have on students. Stiggins & Chappuis (n.d.) expand on this in noting that children form conclusions about learning, early into their educational experience. Children that do not test well, or receive inadequate standardized test scores may become discouraged with learning at an early age. From this standpoint, the student’s ability to pursue their education in the present and future can easily be jeopardized by these formative opinions occurring early in life. Although standardized assessments may be used to measure the achievement gap in an array of topics, the inability to use this data to help the student catch up to their peers or state expectations has been widely demonstrated, rendering standardized assessments ineffective (Bailey, 2010).
Stiggins & Chappuis (n.d.) further concur with the ineffectiveness of standardized testing in stating, “ the failure of 60 years of total reliance on assessment via standardized tests to help reduce achievement score gaps must compel us to rethink the role of assessments” in measuring student progress (p. 11). Multiple methods have been used in order to help reduce achievement gaps as demonstrated in standardized testing. For example, schools are often held accountable for the performance of their students. Over the years, there have bee multiple attempts to help schools motivate and educate their students. However, many of these methods have failed to produce adequate results in lessening the educational gap. Some scholars further argue that low standardized test scores influence students to drop out of school. This argument is heavily based on the student’s perception of their own academic abilities, which is often influenced by standardized test scores. Furthermore, students may not have mastered a basic understanding of the language in order to produce sufficient test results. According to Bailey (2010) “assessments that will be used to measure growth or annual gains in language development must take into account theories of acquisition” (p. 2). From this standpoint, if the student cannot comprehend the language, it is highly unlikely that they will perform well on a standardized test in the language.
Baily (2010) argues that the student must have reached a certain level before they can be successful in understanding and comprehending the English language. Although this argument primarily applies to bilingual students, it could be applied to all students taking standardized assessments. In regards to bilingual students, the inability to comprehend the language is perhaps one of the biggest barriers to success in standardized assessments. This research further uses theories that support the inability to grasp the English language before puberty, or inefficient exposure to the language will prevent the child from developing linguistical skills in English that are comparable to native speakers. Despite the validity of this argument, one must question how to effectively teach students in any discipline and measure their progress. Schools often use report cards and progress reports to inform parents of how their student is doing academically. It could be further argued that if a student never reaches the language proficiency comparable to a native speaker, how is it possible for the student to produce similar results on standardized testing to their native counterparts? This question has been widely explored in literature, as scholars seek to measure how to develop educational standards that are measurable. Yet if the child does not fully understand the language, it is unlikely that he or she can grasp concepts in other disciplines.
Children often become frustrated when they cannot fully understand a new concept. At a young age, children are exposed to core concepts that they will spend the rest of their academic careers building off of. The inability to master these concepts at a young age will surely guarantee that the student will continue to struggle the rest of their academic career. Stiggins & Chappuis (n.d.) attribute these struggles to lack of motivation, in the sense that the student no longer believes he can succeed. However, it could be further argued that the student becomes increasing frustrated to the point where they give up trying to master educational concepts. In relating this concept to bilingualism, Bailey (2010) expands on this perspective in discussing the Threshold Hypothesis. This hypothesis implies “a student’s knowledge of language skills must reach a critical level before the student can cognitively and academically benefit from his or her bilingualism” (p. 1). The inability to meet these cognitive needs could discourage the student from pursuing their education. This is detrimental for a young student, as it can adversely affect their academic progress and alter the path they choose in life.
The inability for schools to effectively use standardized assessments for the benefits of students has been widely document (Stiggins & Chappuis, n.d.). With over sixty years of data demonstrating that standardized assessments are not sufficient in helping students, schools must explore new options in educating students and measuring their academic performance. Furthermore, the adverse affect of standardized assessments has been well documented. Students that become discouraged early into their academic careers are less likely to pursue their education. This can directly alter the path they choose in life. Other research has shown that children need to attain a certain level of cognitive development before they can apply language to other disciplines. Although this concept has been widely demonstrated in bilingual students, it could be argued that all students need to grasp the importance of the skills they are learning in certain subjects to apply them to other disciplines.
- Bailey A.L. (2010) English Language Proficiency Assessment Foundations: External Judgment of Adequacy The EVEA Project.
- Stiggins R., Chappuis J. (n.d.) Using Student-Involved Classroom Assessment to Close Achievement Gaps. Theory Into Practice 44 (1) 11-18.