The Problem with Standardized Tests


I was recently made aware of a comment that a teacher made about the removal of standardized tests this year. It was something to the effect of:

‘I have no idea what or how to teach now that the tests aren’t going to happen‘.

This was a real ‘lightbulb’ moment for me.


I thought, what if standardized tests have essentially taken away much of what it means to be a teacher?

What if the effects of the standardized tests are ‘de-skilling’ our teachers? Is it true that they are removing our imaginations and ability to think flexibly and innovate?

The fact that we spend so much of our year preparing our students for standardized tests, and the fact that we have no idea what we would even teach if they were suddenly taken away, speaks volumes.

This has serious implications.

Standardized tests cause us to lose the very skills that make us excellent teachers. it takes away from the creativity and flexible thinking that we need in this age of knowledge and information. It removes our autonomy, and our ability to innovate and freely plan according to our students interests and personal needs. It takes away our imaginations. Without imagination, how can we foster creative problem solving? You just cannot deny that this is the case. The implications of the results of standardized tests scores severely impact entire schools and and processes of learning.

To start, the fear of not performing well and the ability of standardized tests to influence the competitive natures between teachers and schools, is real. The implications for an entire school that must fall in line and teach students how to effectively answer multiple choice questions to prepare for standardized testing, is real. The fact that a teacher becomes so entrenched in standardized teaching that they forget how to teach without it, is also very real.

Unfortunately, our students are the ones that lose when this happens.

How does this impact our students? We already know about  the undue stress and anxiety that official testing causes, and we already know that students do not find them engaging. Engagement is a key component of effective learning.

But when we realise that standardization causes teachers to lose the ability to access creativity, exercise personal autonomy, access imagination and creatively problem solve. We have a bit of a problem. We watch them become programmed to deliver specific results for someone else’s agenda – not the students agenda. This is not what the 21st century learning should be about. This is the age of information where students and teachers need to be flexible thinkers, critical thinkers and have autonomy to make effective decisions based on important needs. We need to innovate, and we need the freedom to consider new pedagogies for deep learning!

The 21st century (yes I will use this already outdated term) is also about innovation – and we know that standardization is not a friend of innovation. But the ability to innovate is a key value and skill  of the 21st century.

Usually we are only focused only on the implications for the students who are subject to standardized testing. But now I realise that we are essentially causing our teachers to lose the very skills, talents and passion for student learning that attracted them to the job in the first place.

3 responses to “The Problem with Standardized Tests”

  1. Standardized tests are crushing all around, aren’t they? Sad that teachers have been so programed to think about them that their creativity and other teaching skills have suffered. When will the powers that be figure this out?


  2. […] Standardized testing. All indicators point to wanting high standardized testing scores from the students. Teaching to the test for large portions of the year, and making this a main focus for the whole school will make many constructivist approaches look like they are ‘extras’, ‘add-ons’, and not helpful to the ultimate goal of high scores. […]


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