Why Educational Testing is Necessary


Nations invest enormous sums of profit in their elementary and secondary education—on the order of two to four percent of their Gross Domestic Product. This is around or higher than their investment in national defense. Consequently, it’s only natural that they’re interested in locating how effectively this money is spent. Furthermore, in recent decades the educational attainment of the country’s population was statistically connected to its economic success. This link will only strengthen as time passes as our society becomes even more influenced by technology.

Educational testing or, more properly, the outcomes of educational testing are an essential metric for evaluating the quality of the educational system and for informing people and policymakers about what’s and is not functioning as planned. Furthermore, individual students are necessarily enthusiastic about their particular educational performance, as are parents in their child’s performance, so they can realistically evaluate the chances for the student’s future educational progress in addition to their future career path, whether in academia or the workplace.

To offer such metrics, educational testing should be valid and objective. Valid in that the outcomes reflect the particular knowledge and skills that schools are designed to impart to their students and objective in that they’re accurate in their scoring and untainted by irrelevant considerations. Addressing the validity of an examination is in the hands of content experts who create the test items. Addressing test objectivity is a matter of the testing process—the uniformity of its administration and its scoring, put its standardization. Hence the normal expression “standardized test,” encompasses dozens of features and allows test leads to be compared across schools and time.

Another educational test exists too. For example, teachers routinely gauge their students’ progress by administering classroom tests they generate themselves or lift from textbooks. These so-called formative tests are invaluable for the teacher. Yet, they may be neither objective nor even valid, and their results certainly cannot be compared across different schools and classrooms or at higher times.

While nearly all teachers support formative in-class testing, many resist external objective testing. They’re often joined by school administrators and sometimes even by politicians. The reasons for such resistance are obvious: objective test results often conflict with a teacher’s perception of their student’s achievement, and no administrator or politician enjoys disappointing results that they might be forced to explain to an unhappy public.

This report describes educational testing in a few details, argues for the significance of test standardization, and offers proof of its objectivity, particularly when contrasted with the proof of grade inflation in public schools. Further, it documents its beneficial effects on student achievement; unlike the cliché often whipped out by testing opponents that “weighing the cow doesn’t make it fatter,” it would appear that it does, notably when there are significant stakes connected with the outcomes of the test to schools and particularly to students. In the same vein, the report also addresses other common straw-man fallacies that test opponents often mention, such as that testing necessarily narrows the curriculum.

The report concludes that well-executed, proper, and objective educational testing seems irreplaceable as an oversight tool for politicians and people and as a way to guide improvement for students and schools.

Brian Santiago

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