"A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform," a report published in 1983 by the National Commission of Excellence in Education, transformed American education by encouraging states to use standardized tests to evaluate student achievement and the instructional quality. The exams have both advantages and disadvantages for districts, teachers and students.

Assessment Types

Education assessment designers debate the best way to evaluate student skills and development, and no one test provides an accurate profile for all students. Children have favored learning styles, and not all students do well on the test formats currently used on standardized tests. Recall exam formats, for example, favor children preferring the visual learning style, while students favoring a hands-on style to acquire knowledge typically do best by physically demonstrating knowledge. Few standardized tests given as part of statewide evaluation programs incorporate questions for both visual and kinesthetic preferred-learning styles.

Exam Use

Schools frequently take days to complete tests and additional time to prepare students for the assessments and standardized exams. Districts frequently spend months of instructional time on the exam and test-taking skills when scores link to district or school funding. Research reported in the "Wilson Quarterly" in 2011 found instructors take valuable instructional time to teach students how to take the mandatory exams. Florida and New Jersey plan a minimum of 8 to 10 hours for state standardized tests during the 2013-15 school years. District and statewide tests assess student knowledge of the state curriculum standards, a term used to describe general knowledge for different grade levels. Some states and districts link a passing score on exams to grade-level promotion and high school diplomas.

Testing Inequities

The cost of purchasing and administering standardized tests diverts money from state educational funds. Some public urban schools, for example, don't have the sophisticated computer equipment and Internet access to practice and take new standardized tests, and this creates inequity for students in districts with fewer financial resources. Critics of standardized assessments note wealthy test takers with access to professional educational services prepare outside school time for the exam. Students without the funds to enroll in the outside training fail to receive the same test practice.

Outside Distractions

Test scores occasionally have no direct relationship to the learning process. Standardized tests instead penalize delayed learners and reward students who master the test format, rather than the academic content. Exam scores frequently reflect the emotional and physical development of the student rather than the material learned in class. Students under stress and those with language delays or under emotional distress score lower on standardized tests, according to the National Institutes of Health.