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Standardized testing holds merits as benchmark

With Obamas 2009 Race to the Top program to fund high-scoring schools, along with other recent developments in testing, standardizing testing has faced a significant backlash.

The pressurizing way in which standardized tests are implemented, especially in Florida, distorts public perception. Nonetheless, detractors should not blame the tests themselves, as standardized testing holds merit as a benchmark measure.

To some, such as Rosanne Wood, an education consultant for Leon County schools, former principal of SAIL High School in Tallahassee and guest columnist for Florida Today, standardized testing seems to be a stab at educators and their abilities.

Wood asserts that she has not seen such a misguided waste of time, energy and resources as the current Florida accountability system. Students are pressured in third grade to earn a Level 2 (1-5 scale) on the FCAT Reading, and high school students must pass the 10th grade FCAT Reading and Mathematics tests to graduate.

Teachers and schools are also held accountable for their students scores. Schools with students who achieve scores that render them an A school receive more funding than B or C schools. Teachers are paid based on their students success. The resulting pressure leads to education being tailored toward specific tests, which jeopardizes learning.

But rather than punish teachers and scare students, standardized testing should be used to measure improvement and set goals.

Standardized tests are not meant to improve anything. They are not meant to lead to a better future or better students. Rather, they should record, report and benchmark. The process by which students improve should still be up to educators.

As Peter Weddle, former CEO of Job Bank USA, Inc. and writer of A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream writes, there is no evidence that asserts a clear correlation between standardized tests and the knowledge and skills kids will need to prosper in the 21st century world of work.

He says, and many have echoed his sentiments, that oftentimes it appears as though the U.S. wants to create a homogenized workforce rather than individualized members of society.

A 2011 analysis by scholar Richard P. Phelps found that 93 percent of studies of student testing, over a 100-year analysis of testing research, found that student testing has a positive effect on student achievement.

Though many people continue to emphasize the disadvantages of standardized testing and claim that it is unfair toward more creative students, it is necessary to find a method to measure educational outcomes, and standardized testing remains the best objective means of measurement available when used correctly.