What is Standardized Testing?
As the name implies, standardized testing is any test administered and scored in a standard manner. A standardized test is a method of assessment with consistency as its focal point. Standardized tests require all test-takers to respond to the same questions or similar questions from a common question bank in the same way. They are scored consistently, making it possible to compare student performances to each other.
Why are Standardized Tests Used?
Standardized tests can be used for various educational purposes. Some of these determine a child’s readiness to start kindergarten, help identify children who need academic support, help identify learning disabilities in children, place students in different course levels or educational programs. Moreover, standardized tests are used to determine students’ future academic paths, such as which university they will be admitted to. Lastly, some employers use standardized tests as part of the interviewing and hiring process.
What are The Most Common Forms of Standardized Tests?
There are two forms of standardized testing, and these are standardized aptitude tests and standardized achievement tests. An aptitude test works on predicting how well students will perform in the next educational level. Some well-known aptitude tests are The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), and The International Baccalaureate Exam. The topic of standardized aptitude exams has generated lots of controversy and debate. Many find these tests unfair and an inaccurate indicator of students’ intelligence since they focus on specific skills. There is a vast literature on this debate capturing both sides of it. However, this will not be the focus of this article.
Standardized achievement tests measure proficiency, understanding, and knowledge that students learned in school. Moreover, school administrators and school boards can use them to evaluate a school’s effectiveness in reaching their desired learning outcomes. Some of the most recognized achievement standardized tests in the USA are California Achievement Tests, Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, Metropolitan Achievement Tests, and Stanford Achievement Tests.
Standardized Achievement: Diagnosing Learning Disability
One critical use of standard achievement testing is to diagnose learning disabilities. Some of the most common achievement tests to diagnose a learning disability include the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement (WJ), the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), and the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA). These tests focus on reading, writing, and math.
It is important to note that diagnosing a learning disability requires other types of tests. In addition to achievement testing, diagnosing a learning disability includes tests on intelligence, visual-motor integration, and language. Additionally, other tests might be required; this depends on the evaluator and the child’s need. The Learning Disabilities Association of America issued the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that no diagnosis of a learning disability be made based on a single test. IDEA specifically states that a child can be declared to have a learning disability only when they do not perform adequately for their age or meet the grade-level standards in one or more of the following areas:
- oral expression
- listening comprehension
- written expression
- basic reading skill
- reading fluency skills
- reading comprehension
- mathematics calculation
- mathematics problem solving
Who Conducts Diagnostic Learning Disabilities Test?
Usually, the people responsible for assessing children for learning disabilities are experts in education, speech, language, audiology, or psychology. Upon conducting a multitude of tests, interviews, and evaluations, they analyze what obstacles are between a child and success in academics.
Moving Away from Cookie-Cutter Education
Standardized assessments have continued to be the center of controversy and debate for decades, with the critics being the most vocal. The cookie-cutter approach to education treats and assumes all children are and learn in the same way, which we know is not the case. Having said that, it is undeniable that standardized achievement testing has helped many children with learning disabilities get diagnosed. It is worth mentioning that some researchers believe that, like standardized tests, achievement tests for learning disabilities have some inherent flaws. However, one point of view is that achievement tests are an improvement over standardized aptitude tests. They are a step in personalized learning and move away from the cookie-cutter approach to learning. The process of diagnosing learning disabilities is more interdisciplinary since it involves various tests and professionals in test administration and analysis.