Is standardized testing anti-student? Many educators and commentators believe so, vehemently. No more “drill and kill,” some detractors demand. Kids are not robots goes another refrain. Others argue that standardized testing is a soul-sapping exercise in rote learning that devalues critical thinking and favors students of higher-income parents who can afford test-prep classes or private tutors.
On the contrary: Testing is good for the intellectual health of students. It is also an excellent way for teachers to better understand the particular academic challenges their students face.
First, standardized tests are a critical thinker’s dream. Multiple-choice questions often ask students to evaluate evidence and make inferences. Consider a sample multiple-choice question for the New York State English Language Arts test, which is administered in the public schools. It asks students to identify the tone of a paragraph excerpted from Andrew Carnegie’s “The Gospel of Wealth” (1889).