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Izzy Bowen

Jamey Dunham

English Composition 1201

14 Apr 2019

Effects of Standardized Testing

Imagine having to take a test that solely impacts life in many ways. Standardized tests are

tests that students in and under high school take. These tests determine whether or not a student

can graduate. These tests also reflect on the teachers and the school district. Many students and

teachers face mental and physical health issues because of standardized tests. Standardized tests

should not be allowed because of the negative impacts on students, teachers, schools, the fact

that these tests are unfair, and there are many alternatives.

Standardized testing first appeared in America during World War I. It was introduced to

place army recruits into military roles. Afterwards, the psychologists who created those tests,

later created the SAT. This test was created to measure the intelligence of students who were

applying to college. The ACT was created later, and it had a similar goal. These tests had a

different format that was unfamiliar to students. These tests are only multiple choice questions

instead of true or false and short responses. They also only focus on mathematics, language arts,

science, and social studies. A lot of the electives that students had are often pushed aside.

According to Hudlow, “The goal of standardized testing is not to find out how well you think

through problems, or if you can express your opinions, or create a presentation, the goal is to find

out what you were able to memorize.” (Standardized testing is not an accurate measure of

intelligence). Standardized testing does not accurately measure a student’s intelligence because

these tests show how much a student can memorize not what they have actually learned.
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In the early 2000s, Common Core was introduced. According to Barrington, “the

Common Core State Standards Initiative is designed to ensure that students across the country

receive a similar quality of education.” (How Does Standardized Testing Affect Teaching

Quality?). Common Core brought along a new form of standardized testing. Instead of these tests

just measuring a student’s intelligence for college, they now determine whether students

graduate. Standardized tests were introduced to ensure schools were following Common Core

Standards. For a test to be standardized, it must have the same content, questions, and answers

for all students who take it that year.

Firstly, students are impacted drastically by these tests. It affects their life, education, and

their mental/physical health. Standardized tests are high-stake tests. These tests determine if a

student graduates or not. According to FairTest, “To be high stakes, a test has to be very

important in the decision process or be able to override other information.” (The Dangerous

Consequences of High-Stakes Standardized Testing). It does not matter how well the student did

in school. Unless a student passes this test, they can’t graduate. According to Kohn, “Virtually

all relevant experts and organizations condemn the practice of basing important decisions, such

as graduation or promotion, on the results of a single test.” (Standardized Testing and Its

Victims). Experts and organizations do not agree with Common Core Standards about

standardized testing determining if a student graduates or not.

Students are also missing out on a lot of valuable education because of these tests. These

tests cost money to be prepared, and a lot of schools cannot afford all of it. However, the money

has to come from somewhere, so poor schools will often have to cut classes and extracurricular

activities to be able to afford the preparation. According to Ramey, “With a focus on reading and

math scores, students lose history, world languages, the arts, and other programs.” (13 Ways
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High-Stakes Standardized Tests Hurt Students). A lot of classes are left out of the curriculum

because those subjects are not on the test. Students are missing out on these subjects. There is

also a lot of lost time that is meant for learning. By the time they graduate high school, the

average student will have taken around 112 standardized tests. According to Zimmer, “Kids and

parents are often frustrated with standardized tests that take up valuable teaching time.” (The

Effects of Standardized Tests on Teachers and Students). So much of this time is going into test

prep that students do not have much time to learn. According to Ramey, “Students are learning

how to take high-stakes-tests, but cannot demonstrate subject mastery when tested in a different

format.” (13 Ways High-Stakes Standardized Tests Hurt Students). Students only learn how to

do well on these tests. They do not actually learn the information in a way that would be helpful

to them later in life.

High-stakes standardized tests also cause students to have mental and physical health

issues. These tests impact students’ lives in many ways, and the biggest one is determining if

they graduate. With all of this riding on these tests, students are under a lot of pressure to

perform well. Their results do not just impact their lives, but they also impact the lives of the

teachers and the schools. According to Ramey, “Teachers are reporting children throwing up,

losing control of their bowels, and increased commitments for psychiatric and anxiety issues.”

(13 Ways High-Stakes Standardized Tests Hurt Students). These tests put an immense amount of

stress on students that it causes them to get sick before tests and have anxiety. According to

Zimmer, “For example, stress from standardized tests can lead to poorer health and negative

feelings toward school and learning.” (The Effects of Standardized Tests on Teachers and

Students). These tests lead to stress and health problems that could have been avoided.

According to Ramey, “some schools turn to daily announcements or even pep rallies to
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“prepare” students for testing.” (13 Ways High-Stakes Standardized Tests Hurt Students).

Students become very stressed with the amount of pressure they are put under to perform well,

that schools hold pep rallies and have daily announcements to encourage students. Students who

constantly fail these tests begin to feel they are not smart, bad, and even worthless. Some

students even suffer from test anxiety. This test anxiety causes many physical and mental health

problems. Some of the physical health problems that students who suffer from test anxiety

encounter are shaking, a fast-paced heartbeat, dry mouth, sweating, fainting, and even nausea.

Some of the mental health problems these students encounter are anger, feeling of hopelessness,

depression, and low self esteem. High test anxiety can often lead to students turning to substance

abuse. Some even drop out of school to escape the feelings that test anxiety causes. Critics might

argue that the outcome of the test is greater than the negative parts. However, the negative parts

outweigh the outcome because these tests lead to unneeded stress that cause many health

problems, and students learn less with these tests in place.

Secondly, not just students are impacted by these tests. Standardized tests impacts

teachers too. It affects the way they teach, their job, and their mental and physical health. Most

teachers only teach to the test. This means that the teachers will only teach what they think might

be on the test. Teachers do this because they are put under a lot of pressure for students to

perform well that they want to make sure students learn all the information that could appear on

the test. They also have to teach according to the Common Core Standards. According to Kohn,

“Many educators are leaving the field because of what is being done to schools in the name of

“accountability” and “tougher standards.” (Standardized Testing and Its Victims). Teachers are

getting frustrated because they no longer have control over their classroom. According to

Zimmer, “45 percent of the NEA members surveyed had considered leaving the profession due
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to the adverse effects of standardized testing.” (The Effects of Standardized Tests on Teachers

and Students). Many teachers leave because they are too frustrated with Common Core

Standards. As stated in FairTest, “Good teachers are often discouraged, even disgusted, by the

overemphasis on testing. Many excellent teachers leave.” (The Dangerous Consequences of

High-Stakes Standardized Testing). Most of the teachers that leave are not the ones who are too

lazy to want to learn how to teach differently, but are the ones who have tried but have gotten too


Teachers can also lose their jobs because of these tests. The results of the standardized

tests do not only reflect on the students, but they also reflect on their teachers. Teachers are

under a lot of pressure because they can lose their jobs if the results are not high enough.

Teachers try to teach to the test more and prepare the students by practicing test prep questions.

Because of this, less time is involved teaching the students valuable information that they will

need for later in life. Critics might argue that teachers should not worry about these standardized

tests. Their reasoning for this argument is that if they are good teachers, then their students will

do good on the test. If their students do not do well, then they are to blame. However, this isn’t

true. The teachers do not know what will be on these standardized tests. They just teach about

what they think might be on it. Standardized tests for the most part are multiple choice and not

extended response. This give students less opportunities to give the correct answer. If there were

extended response questions, then students would be able to explain their answer.

Standardized Tests affect teachers mental and physical health also. Teachers are under an

immense amount of pressure to have their students perform well on these tests that it starts

affecting their health. Teachers are also stressed about the fact that they could lose their jobs.

According to Zimmer, “a survey of 1,500 National Education Association (NEA) teacher

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members found that nearly three out of four (72 percent) teachers felt moderate to extreme

pressure from their school and administrators to improve their standardized test scores. What’s

more, slightly more than four out of ten (42 percent) teachers believed that the emphasis placed

on improving test scores negatively impacted their classroom.” (The Effects of Standardized

Tests on Teachers and Students). All of this stress that teachers are under leads to poor health. As

mentioned previously, schools will often hold pep rallies and have daily announcements to help

with students and teachers’ mental and physical health.

Schools are also affected by standardized testing because of the rankings and closings.

Schools are ranked throughout the state that they are in depending on how well their students did

on the test. If they are lower on the list, then they could be in threat of closing. According to

Ramey, “Schools that perform poorly on high-stakes-tests are labeled “failures”...Schools labeled

as “failing” on the basis of test scores can be threatened with closure.” (13 Ways High-Stakes

Standardized Tests Hurt Students). This puts a lot of stress on the students, teachers, and staff. If

students do not do well on these tests, then it not only reflects on the students but the teachers

and staff as well.

Standardized tests are also unfair. According to Kohn, “The tests may be biased. For

decades, critics have complained that many standardized tests are unfair because the questions

require a set of knowledge and skills more likely to be possessed by children from a privileged

background.” (Standardized Testing and Its Victims).

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Fig. 1. This political cartoon shows how standardized tests are unfair to most students. (The Cool

Cat Teacher Blog).

Standardized tests are not fair to most kids because kids from wealthier families have a better

advantage. According to Wexler, “Standardized tests are best at measuring family income.”

(What To Do About Standardized Tests). Students who are from wealthier families are exposed

to more knowledge that is on the test than kids who are not. According to Wexler, “the tests will

continue to penalize kids who haven’t been lucky enough to acquire much knowledge

elsewhere.” (What To Do About Standardized Tests). These tests are unfair because the kids’

families’ income is out of their control. It is not fair that they get punished for these tests when

they cannot help the knowledge they do not receive because of their families’ income. Critics
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might argue that these standardized tests are good because teachers cannot be bias when grading

these tests. However, standardized tests are bias because the students who do well on these tests

are students who come from wealthier backgrounds, and students who do are from poorer

families are punished because of something they cannot control.

Standardized tests are also unfair because of test anxiety. A study has shown that 16-20%

of students suffer from high test anxiety, while 18% of students suffer from moderately-high test

anxiety. Test anxiety occurs when students are put under a lot of pressure to perform well on

tests. This causes students’ test scores to lessen. Students who suffer from high test anxiety have

a reduced working memory. Their minds will often go blank while taking these tests. This leads

to lowered test scores. Some students with high test anxiety will often rush through standardized

tests to stop feeling the discomfort of test anxiety. Other students who suffer from test anxiety,

however, will spend twice as long as most students spend. Unfortunately, they also do about

three times as worse.

Thirdly, standardized tests do not always accurately evaluate a student’s total growth.

Standardized tests allow the government to see how well the students and the schools are doing.

However, these tests only show how much knowledge a student has at the time. According to

Ayres, “A student who comes into fourth grade at a first-grade reading level, but improves to a

third-grade reading level by the end of the year, will still be measured as being deficient on their

standardized test.” (16 Biggest Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing). Standardized tests only

show how much a student knows at that time. It does not show a student’s progress. Students can

make a lot of progress, but standardized tests do not show it. Critics might argue that

standardized tests are good because they are a way of seeing how much a student knows and if
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the teachers and school district are doing their jobs. However, standardized tests only show how

much a student knows at that time not how much they have progressed.

Finally, standardized tests are unfair to students because most of the questions on these

tests are multiple choice with only a small amount being extended response. Multiple choice

questions are too simplistic. The students do not have the opportunity to explain how they got the

answer they did. When students can explain their answers, they often do better on tests than

multiple choice questions where they just guess. Critics might argue that multiple choice

standardized tests are better because they are graded by technology, and extended response

questions require human readers. However, students do better on standardized tests when it is

extended response because they have the chance to explain their answer and how they got it.

Multiple choice questions may be easier and faster to grade, but they do not provide the students

with the type of format and questions that would benefit the students.

There are many alternatives for standardized testing. Portfolios is an alternative that

would show how much a student has progressed. Teachers would keep track of their student’s

progress by putting papers, projects, tests, etc. in these portfolios. At the end of the school year,

the school district could send the portfolios to the state to be examined. Critics might argue that

this way of examining students and teachers is not good because it would take a lot of time for

the state to examine all of these portfolios. However, it would be better than standardized testing

because it shows the students’ progress and how hard they have worked to get that far. Another

alternative would be pre-assessments and post assessments. Teachers would give a test at the

beginning of the year over what they would teach. These tests would see how much a student

already knows about the subject. Then, at the end of the year, the teachers would give them the
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same test. This would show the students’ progress throughout the year. It would also show how

well the teachers and schools are doing their jobs.

In conclusion, standardized tests should not be allowed because of the effects on students,

teachers, schools, the fact that they are unfair, and there are alternatives that would benefit the

students, teachers, and schools. Standardized tests are not an accurate measure of a student’s

intelligence because the tests are unfair. Students miss out on valuable education, and they are

under a lot of pressure to perform well. This stress leads to poorer mental and physical health.

Many teachers often leave schools because they are frustrated with the Common Core Standards

emphasis on these tests. They are also under a lot of pressure to have their students do well on

these tests because their results also reflect on them. They can lose their jobs if their students do

not perform well. The stress from this leads to poorer mental and physical health. Schools are

also impacted by these tests because if schools do not do well on these tests, they are often

labeled as failures. Schools that are labeled as failures often end up closing. Kids from wealthier

families have an advantage on these tests, whereas, kids from poorer families have an unfair

disadvantage. Many students also suffer from test anxiety which causes many of their tests

scores to be a lot lower than other students. There are also many alternatives to standardized

testing such as portfolios and post assessments. If Common Core would not have schools take

standardardized tests, then students would have a better education, teachers would not have to

teach to the test, and students and teachers would have better mental and physical health.
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Works Cited

Ayres, Crystal. “16 Biggest Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing.”,


Barrington, Kate. “How Does Standardized Testing Affect Teaching Quality?”, 5 Feb. 2018,

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Cherry, Kendra. “What Is Test Anxiety?” Verywell Mind,


Davis, Vicki. “Fish Don't Climb Trees: The Education Cartoon Everyone Should See.”

Cool Cat Teacher Blog, 24 Nov. 2015,


“Do Standardized Tests Accurately Show Students' Abilities?” Concordia University-

Portland, 5 May 2018,


Fulton, Beth A. “The Relationship Between Test Anxiety and Standardized Test Scores.”

Walden University,

Hudlow, Andy. “Standardized Testing Is Not an Accurate Measure of Intelligence.”

Knight Errant,


Kohn, Alfie. “Standardized Testing and Its Victims.” Education Week, 2000,


In this newspaper article written by Alfie Kohn, he talks about the facts about


Strauss, Valerie. “13 Ways High-Stakes Standardized Tests Hurt Students.” The

Washington Post, WP Company, 11 Mar. 2014,

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“The Dangerous Consequences of High-Stakes Standardized Testing.” The Dangerous

Consequences of High-Stakes Standardized Testing | FairTest,

Wexler, Natalie. “What To Do About Standardized Tests.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 15

Nov. 2018,


Zimmer, Tim. “The Effects of Standardized Tests on Teachers and Students.” The

Classroom, 10 Jan. 2019,