Standardized Testing: Failures, Effects, and Future Improvement

Wikipedia Commons

At its heart, standardized testing is a system with good intentions. It seeks to implement a method by which educators can attempt to effectively measure students’ abilities and aptitudes. Yet, despite those good intentions, the implementation of standardized testing proved to be hugely ineffective in developing student learning and continues to inflict harmful effects on the education system as a whole. Consequently, standardized testing should not be a primary method of student aptitude evaluation and less pressure should be placed on the significance of these exams.  

The negative effects of standardized testing on students’ physical and emotional well-being are growing increasingly evident. Students are spending excessive amounts of times preparing for these exams, creating unnecessary stress and negative attitudes towards schooling. Such stress has been shown to cause students to have incidents of vomiting, headaches, sleep problems, depression, issues of attendance, acting out, and anxiety attacks (Simpson). Reducing the pressures on these exams will allow students will be able to pursue other fields of study as well, such as technical or vocational training (Rich). Following the implementation of Common Core, the NYS Parent Teacher Association found that parents and educators reported that 75% of students had more test-induced stresses than they had been in previous years (Klein). Thus, students are growing more and more anxious when it comes to standardized testing due to the high-stakes of the exams and consequently obtain stress-related symptoms that inflict harm upon the physical and emotional stability of the students.

Standardized testing creates a system in which schools to teach to the test. Thus, students’ intelligence is evaluated based on their ability to correctly fill in a bubble on a Scantron. One becomes a “proficient test-taker” through memorization and regurgitation of information. This system creates students who are robotic in nature, failing to encourage creative thinking from “non-standardized students” (Strauss). Therefore, standardized testing doesn’t evaluate the aptitudes of a student on a particular subject, but rather their test-taking abilities. While proponents of standardized testing argue that it is an objective way to compare students, students think differently from one another and thus express themselves uniquely. Therefore, the only thing these exams are comparing is the students’ abilities to take a test.  

In reducing the high-stakes associated with standardized testing, it is critical to minimize the amount of stress-related symptoms students experience as a result of these tests. Students should be allowed to demonstrate aptitudes using methods deemed suitable other than using standardized exams. More trust needs to be placed on teachers so that their evaluation of students is taken seriously. The education system should not be “teaching to a test” but instead teach students important life skills that will be used for real-world application

Klein, R. “New York students are incredibly stressed out about standardized testing, survey says.” The Huffington Post. 7 February 2014,

Rich, Motoko. “Texas Considers Backtracking on Testing.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Apr. 2013,

Simpson, Christina. “Effects of Standardized Testing on Students’ Well-Being.” Harvard Graduate School of Education, May 2016

Strauss, Valerie. “34 Problems with Standardized Tests.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 Apr. 2017,

Ben Harkaway, a junior, is the Opinion editor and lead contributor for the column "The Philosopher's Corner" for RamPage.