In the next few posts, I want to discuss four major problems with standardised tests. However, I want to state, from the outset, that standardised tests aren’t all bad, that they have always been with us and probably always will. I just doubt that they are really all that useful. I’m going to outline my top four reasons why I think standardised tests need to change in the next few posts.
But, before I do that, I will describe a standardised test with which most Australians are familiar. It’s the standardised test I’m thinking about when I wrote these next few posts.
The National Assessment Plan Literacy and Numeracy, known as NAPLAN, is delivered every year to children and young adults in grades 3, 5, 7 and 9. This schedule of testing means that children as young as 8 are required to undertake standardised tests in their school. One of the problems with standardised tests is that they often qualify for the term ‘high stakes’. In fact, Schwab (2012)and Klenowski and Wyatt-Smith (2012) put NAPLAN clearly in the ‘high stakes standardised test’ camp (in spite of forum discussions I’ve had with people telling me that NAPLAN is not a high stakes test on The Conversation). High stakes tests are those that may affect the school or the student in negative ways. For example, as with NAPLAN, school funding and student numbers may be affected with a bad NAPLAN score as it is published on the government’s MySchool website (www.myschool.edu.au/). As a result, parents often make decisions about schools because of the NAPLAN results, if the results are bad, they may not send their child to that school and, as a result, the school will lose funding. It is interesting to note that the Australian Primary Principals’ Association (APPA) argue that NAPLAN and high stakes tests “have unintended and negative impacts on teaching and learning quality and that schools must be protected from such consequences” (Klenowski & Wyatt-Smith, 2012, p. 66).
In the next four posts, I’ll be discussing the major problems with standardised tests, but, if you’ve got other ideas, please let me know and I will explore those as well. The four big problems I see are:
- standardised tests narrow the curriculum
- standardised tests are a control mechanism for schools (and therefore teachers), parents and children
- standardised tests privilege basic skills over higher order thinking
- standardised tests, because of their nature and their mechanism for delivery, neglect a set of skills that are widely acknowledged as important in the C21.