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Should we get rid of standardized testing? - Arlo Kempf

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Although standardized testing is a particularly hot topic in education right now, this approach to measurement has been in use for two millennia. And while the results of standardized testing can help us understand some things, they can also be misleading if used incorrectly. So what do these tests actually measure? And are they worthwhile? Arlo Kempf investigates.

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TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Arlo Kempf
  • Director Borbála Tompa
  • Producer Bella Szederkényi
  • Animator Iván Tamás, Barna Nemes
  • Designer Borbála Tompa
  • Sound Designer James Woodville
  • Associate Producer Jessica Ruby
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
Standardized testing is simply one of many approaches for measuring things. By itself, this form of measurement has no more political agenda than a measuring tape, a thermometer, or a fuel gauge in a car. Like all instruments, however, standardized tests exist in specific cultural, economic, geographic, and political contexts. Standardized testing has become an important and controversial 21st century topic largely because of its widespread use in elementary and secondary schooling.

In the US, where standardized tests are used more frequently than most other countries, questions have arisen regarding the usefulness of standardized testing as well as regarding the validity and reliability of the inferences that can be made based on the results of standardized testing. While many scholars agree that standardized tests can be useful for diagnostic purposes, the use of standardized testing to measure the success and failure of students, teachers, schools, and districts is insufficient for understanding teaching and learning, or for getting a clear picture of what is happening in schools.

In particular, creativity as well as other important 21st century competencies simply cannot be measured using traditional assessment and evaluation methods. In his 2014 piece, Can imagination be measured?, Mike Llewellyn argues that standardized tests offer no good predictions of post-secondary or career success. In his 2013 TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson goes further, to suggest that the use of standardized testing can actually discourage creativity and disengage children from the processes of learning.

Often in schools, what gets tested is what gets taught. It follows that standardized testing too often accompanies broader standardization of teaching and learning.

To learn more about the role of standardized testing in education, see W. James Popham’s seminal 2001 work, The Truth About Testing: An Educator’s Call to Action (New York, ASCD).

To learn more about how standardized testing is impacting classrooms and teaching in the US and Canada, see Arlo Kempf’s (2016), The Pedagogy of Standardized Testing: The Radical Impacts of Educational Standardization in the US and Canada
(New York, Palgrave).

To learn more about how validity and reliability work when interpreting standardized tests results, see
Thorndike & Thorndike-Christ’s (2010), Measurement and Evaluation in Psychology and Education. (8th ed.) (NJ, Pearson).

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About TED-Ed Originals

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Arlo Kempf
  • Director Borbála Tompa
  • Producer Bella Szederkényi
  • Animator Iván Tamás, Barna Nemes
  • Designer Borbála Tompa
  • Sound Designer James Woodville
  • Associate Producer Jessica Ruby
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

Share

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