List of Pros and Cons of High Stakes Testing

Since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed, high stakes testing has become the norm in the majority of American schools. Students must now pass a series of standardized tests in order to continue being promoted to the next grade level. There are educators who fall on both sides of the debate, as some believe that high stakes testing helps students, while others see it as a detriment to true learning.

When a student’s entire future hinges on the results of one particular exam, this can be cause for alarm. As such, it is important to discuss all of the advantages and disadvantages of high stakes testing, so that students are placed in the most advantageous position and given a chance to reach their true potential.

List of Pros of High Stakes Testing

1. Helps Teachers Learn More About Student Needs.
One advantage to high stakes testing is that it allows teachers to learn more about how to tailor their lesson plans to the needs of their students. Supporters of high stakes testing have argued that the tests are a great way for teachers to understand their students’ strengths and more importantly, their weaknesses.

High stakes testing is considered to be a great way to measure a child’s overall progress and its supporters expect these tests to help children over the long haul, not hinder them. When the tests are used as tools to measure progress, as opposed to being used to measure intelligence, they are expected to give teachers the help they need in reaching more of their students.

2. The Testing Data Is Readily Available.
Parents who have taken a serious interest in their child’s education are able to access all of the necessary data with ease. Once the high stakes testing has been completed, the results are made available to parents who are concerned about their child’s overall progress. In order to obtain the best possible education for your child, this information is incredibly valuable.

For example, a parent may look at the testing data and surmise that their child is struggling with mathematics. Instead of punishing the child or simply telling them to “study more”, parents can attack the problem differently. The child may respond better to private tutoring or parents can decide to take a more active role in their child’s schoolwork.

3. Improved Test Taking Abilities.
Children who will be attending college or pursuing other forms of secondary education need to become diligent test takers at a young age and high stakes testing helps them to do so. When a child is forced to sharpen their test taking skills through repetition, this is great for their overall development.

Learning how to handle pressure is a great skill for a child to learn at a young age and it will bolster their development. It teaches them the importance of studying and using their time wisely. By giving them a chance to rise to the occasion at a young age, you decrease the chances of them becoming overwhelmed by stressful situations later in life.

List of Cons of High Stakes Testing

1. Some Subjects Are Not Properly Emphasized.
In the world of high stakes testing, mathematics and language arts tend to get the bulk of the attention. Social studies and science are often given short shift and as a result, students’ knowledge in those areas is often lacking as they age. Several subjects tend to be sacrificed at the altar of test preparation, which can cause students’ grades to slip.

By focusing so much effort on high stakes standardized testing, students are deprived of their full education. The federal curriculum mandates state that students are supposed to receive an equal amount of instruction in all subjects, yet these rules are regularly broken in order to prepare students for the next round of high stakes tests.

2. Creativity Is Stifled.
Part of the battle of getting students to focus on high stakes testing is forcing them to focus on very dry materials. Many teachers fall into the trap of “teaching to the test”. While this may work wonders for their test scores, it is not an environment that allows for creativity and thinking outside of the box. A young mind needs to be nurtured, so that it can grow and high stakes testing does not allow that to happen.

If a teacher is asked to teach to the specifications of a test, it does not enable creative teaching or creative learning. Teachers typically need to alter their lesson plans significantly in order to squeeze in all of the needed test taking materials and students who learn in a less traditional manner are often left behind.

3. Increasing Pressure Does Not Always Work.
Some children respond well to pressure and rise to the occasion. However, these high stakes testing strategies do not work for all children, as each and every child learns in a different way. Pressure is simply not a constructive force in everyone’s life and high stakes testing practices are not re-cognizant of that fact.

Pressure to do well on a high stakes exam is not always good pressure for a young student to experience. There are many academic experts who believe that these tests heap pressure onto a student for the sake of adding pressure, which does not help anyone to learn. Students also learn how to pass the test, but they do not retain any of the knowledge, which is also counter productive.