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Resolved: On balance, standardized testing is beneficial to K-12 education in the United States.
I’m not even going to bother talking about how terrible this topic is. Let’s just get into the arguments.
Nothing in this resolution really needs to be defined. We all know what standardized testing is, and what K-12 education is. We also know what the United States is. The only thing to keep in mind is that you do, in fact, have to defend the actual standardized test that occur in the U.S. You cannot argue in a hypothetical world where standardized testing is carried out properly. The reason for this is the word “is.” The resolution is asking you to evaluate reality, not make a normative judgment about the ideal state of things.
The important thing here is to develop a framework which explains what being “beneficial” entails. If something is beneficial to education, what criteria must it fulfill?
1. Measurable Improvement – The mark of a strong educational system is its ability to measure improvement. There need to be objective metrics which evaluate whether teachers, schools, and students are improving and how they’re performing in relation to each other. Standardized test allow this to happen. They allow for the comparison of educational systems, along with longitudinal comparisons of performance. Additionally, they allow for the identification of areas of need.
2. Economic Benefits – Standardized tests economically benefit an already strapped education system. They are easy to administer, take less time, and are easier to evaluate. Therefore, they allow resources to go where they’re more needed.
3. Selection for the Working World – Standardized tests allow for an objective metric for post K-12 institutions to select students and employees. This is good for pre-secondary education because it allows schools to easily set standards, goals, and curricula.
1. Preparation for the Real World – The mark of a strong education system is its ability to prepare students for the real world. Standardized tests prevent schools from being able to do that. They do not test skills and actual knowledge retention. Instead, they test irrelevant abilities of memorization and regurgitation. Not only that, there are entire companies dedicated to teaching techniques for effective test taking for these tests, rather than teaching actual useful competencies.
2. Finland – Standardized tests don’t actually create students who perform better on standardized tests. Finland is the #1 education system in the world, as ranked by the PISA standardized test rankings. The thing is, Finland’s education system doesn’t have any standardized test. The only multiple choice individual tests Finnish students ever take is this test for international ranking. Otherwise, their system is based entirely on group activities and collective learning. So, standardized tests actually waste a large amount of resources in the U.S. because schools focus on creating students who can do well on these tests, but they go about it the entirely wrong way. It’s a really strange self-defeating cycle.
3. Fish Can’t Climb Trees – Einstein had a famous quote about how you can’t evaluate how smart a fish is by asking it to climb a tree. Standardized tests do exactly that. They try to evaluate everyone using the same metric, which is dumb, because people aren’t all the same. If you ask all the animals to climb a tree, of course the monkeys will excel, and the fish will fail. Therefore, you destroy what an education system actually ought to be, a mechanism to foster and evaluate the actual skills of students. Standardized tests are destructive.
I hope that helps you get started. Good luck!