Both standardized and non-standardized assessments have their own benefits and drawbacks. Standardized assessments seek to measure the measurable, while non-standardized tests measure student skills that are noticeable and maybe significant, but can't be quantified. Luckily, both forms of assessment can operate alongside each other in a class curriculum.
State Mandates for Standardized Testing
Standardized test results play a major role in how states fund schools and in the decisions that policymakers make. However, states are less likely to make funding decisions based on non-standardized tests. Standardized tests also help make schools accountable for student achievement. By measuring how much students improve in a particular classroom, standardized tests cue administrators to check on instructional methods in place and whether they need to be changed.
The No Child Left Behind Act requires that standardized tests be the main metric by which schools assess student achievement. Standardized tests are fairer, while non-standardized tests do not allow schools to compare teachers and students, since schools can feign improvement by making non-standardized assessment easier for students. Standardized tests are quantifiable. However, standardized tests cannot accurately assess subjects, such as creative writing, which are skills that are not easily measurable. This leaves non-standardized tests as the better option for these skills.
Types of Questions
With standardized tests, students answer the same or very similar questions. Non-standardized tests can give students different questions and sometimes have them perform different activities. For example, a class might have students create projects where they use visual aids to explain addictive substances to the rest of the class. One student may choose to show a video, while another student might use a poster board.
Non-standardized tests may have varying conditions that influence how the tests are scored. For example, students may receive higher or lower grades on tests based on their progress compared to how they scored on earlier tests. Non-standardized tests are often geared more toward developing the skills of the students.
Standardized assessments rely on easily measurable data, such as multiple-choice questions. The tests give students questions and they must fill in bubbles that correspond with their chosen answers. There are several false answers along with the true answer. Filling in a false answer will cause the student to not receive credit for the answer. Non-standardized assessments are less formal and rely on situations, such as teacher observations, portfolios, informal questioning, student participation in the class and checklists.
Levels of Academic Achievement
Non-standardized assessment methods consider that students have different levels of academic achievement. Standardized tests assess students at the same level of difficulty, so the tests will either be “dumbed down” to help struggling students pass, or be so hard that struggling students never pass.
Standardized assessments are controlled assessments that test all students in a given geographic area evenly. This allows schools and policymakers to accurately compare the success of groups, such as teachers, schools and students. Since the tests are standardized, the poor-achieving groups cannot argue that the tests are unevenly matched. Standardized tests have specific skills or content areas that they measure. States often align tests with state standards on what they want schools to teach students.
- Glossary of Education Reform: Standardized Test
- The Washington Post:The problem with tests that are not standardized
- eCampus News: Standardized assessments must account for non-standardized institutions
- Therapy Connect: Standardised and Non-Standardised Assessments
- Whitby: The Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing