Standardized Testing can be defined as the use of an evaluation of the knowledge of a population of subjects wherein all of the content, conditions, and assessment of the test is the same for each evaluee?7?. This broad definition can be applied to both widespread, mass-marked examinations which are mandatory for vast populations of school students, such as EQAO testing, as well as smaller scale tests administered by a teacher to a single class. While both can have negative effects on the learning potential of students, this essay will focus on the mass regional evaluation of students, and the harm or lack of help it provides for students and teachers. Standardized testing in this context should be done away with in an academic setting, as can be supported by the time and focus it draws from important learning opportunities presented by a student and creativity driven lesson system, the undue pressure it puts on students, teachers, and academic organizations, and how unfair these tests really are. However important the results may be to some, standardized testing is not an effective way to get said results, and so has no home in schools as a means to evaluate student achievement. The most common types of standardized tests, which involve mostly multiple choice questions, and generally a few open response questions, are hailed as being totally fair, given that all students are marked on the same criteria, within the same context of age and of location and time allotted to complete the test. These characteristics, however,do not make the tests fair, but rather that they make them quite unfair. This is partially because of the crypticism or subjectivity of many questions, which each have objectively right and wrong answers according to the machines that mark them, or the criteria they are marked on. Thus, due to differing contexts or schools of thought, a question or answer may take on a totally different meaning for one person than another. This is beautifully illustrated in this story from the blog Seattle Education: A Latina ‘bias reviewer’ caught this item while reviewing questions prepared for the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. “I remember one question that showed a picture of a couch on a porch and asked, ‘What doesn’t fit?’ she says. ‘I started laughing…the way I grew up, everyone had a couch outside.’ “?5 So obviously, one’s ethnic, cultural, social, and economical background can affect the interpretation, but also the aptitude one has for these tests, but there are other factors. Most abundant that different people learn in different ways, so they will apply knowledge in different ways. Studies have shown about 30% of k-12 students identify as primarily visual learners?6?. This means that the other roughly 70% of students are generally at a disadvantage when taking tests, and particularly when learning “testing skills” in a way that generally doesn’t compliment their learning style. This results in the tests given to students being surprisingly unfair for a method of aptitude evaluation generally touted as being objectively fair to the target students. While it may be true that life is unfair, making a potentially life altering assumptions about students based more in chance than on the potential of the student is an unjustifiable ignorance to their intelligence and potential that tradidional standardized testing only serves to amplify. One point raised by supporters of standardized testing is that it keeps schools accountable to the government, and to citizens, by publicizing the results, showing the effectiveness of different schools. The scores are rated, from best to worst. This of course results in incredible degrees of competition, and in turn one of the most apparent negative effects of standardized testing to students and educators: the stress it can cause. The students are pressured to succeed, under the cookie cutter definition of success presented by the groups that organize and grade the tests. Testing compares students to one another, giving schools and students ammunition to put one another down. It was even stated in a Washington Post article that standardized tests create unreasonable pressure for the students taking them to cheat?3?. The competitive nature of the tests not only promotes stress and dishonesty among students, but also gives the appearance of superiority to some schools, which can lead to unfair statistics, and imply undue value to certain regions or schools. “Every year, the Fraser Institute issues report cards that use results from places such as Ontario to rank schools from best to worst.”?4 The result of this emphasis on comparing schools, instructors, and students to one another is that educators become more focused on test results than the student’s learning. This, combined with the normal stress kids are prone to as a result of school, tests, and all of the studying that comes with it, rolls into an overall unhealthy, unproductive education system. This toxic learning environment, aside from having a negative effect on the test scores apparently intended to give the public a basis of how students are doing, could be vastly improved with the removal of our pointless system of standardized testing. Some will argue that modern standardized tests are merely a measure of how familiar with, and effective in applying the curriculum children are. They cite the statistics as useful data that can help understand what children need, and how the education system can be changed to help children learn. These people should be directed toward the ineffectiveness of these tests to accurately and validly assess students’ understanding of important and curriculum topics. These tests generally only evaluate students’ familiarity with the study of mathematics and english. These two subjects, while important, do not represent a student’s intellectual value or prowess. These two subjects are sometimes regarded with aversion, and are the two most tutored subjects, together totalling 74% of tutoring?9?. Thus, these subjects, while they are only a small portion of the curriculum that children are required to understand, are the ones they struggle with the most. The point is that it isn’t fair or reasonable to judge children’s value as students, as these tests do, by such a niche standard. Another extremely important note to make is of the way these tests are marked. The multiple choice questions are marked by machine, and open response questions are marked based on highly specific criteria. What this means is that there is no room for creativity. A poor answer that follows format is correct, and a creative one out of format is wrong?10?. This means for one that the tests will always favour takers who think a certain way, and those with different thought processes(which are plentiful among young children) may just be out of luck. It also means that an extensive understanding of a topic, beyond what is expected of students, will never be rewarded or given a higher mark. All of this means that the numbers that represent average marks on evaluations, or other statistics are only numbers. They don’t actually have anything to do with the intellectual prowess of the students. That begs the question: If standardized tests don’t do the one thing that supposedly makes them valuable, what value do they really have. Perhaps the most important reason that standardized testing as a practice should be omitted from a modern education system is that it is taking time out of learners’ days that could be spent on more important things. Standardized tests, which generally focus on certain aspects of Math and English language studies, force teachers into “spending more and more time teaching to the test.”?1? This means that teachers spend a substantial amount of class time preparing students for the machine marked tests. This results in a very narrow way of thinking being taught for the purposes of these tests, which contradicts the intention of school. This preparation for the tests, as well as the tests themselves also severely limit the scope of the topics and information that can be taught. “Standardized testing undermines the very education it is designed to improve. Teachers spend so much time on prepping for tests and administering them that the traditional curriculum no longer exists.”?2 So, while the intention of schooling is to help youth to develop into well rounded, productive individuals, standardized testing forces them to learn and relearn testing procedures, such that the already sometimes weak curriculum is often overlooked in favour of comparatively pointless or irrelevant test material. This is especially problematic considering that students are often considered to not be learning enough in schools. Many parents complain that their students don’t learn enough in school, and that they should be taught life skills such as basic utility skills and being taught how to operate as an adult in the “Real world”?8?. The unending struggle to keep school lessons relevant and valuable in modern society would be well served by more time for the students to learn, and to learn more valuable skills than are conventionally being taught now. Standardized tests, and the preparation associated with them, take up far too much temporal real estate that could be filed with much more valuable lessons to be considered important enough to retain. In closing, the Idea that standardized testing should continue to be a benchmark of student achievement continues to be absurd. They are no great equalizer, and even if they were an accurate assessment option for students, I don’t think that the stress they can cause, not only to the students writing the tests but to educators and parents as well, is worth the valuable class time they waste. Many people complain that the traditional Western system of teaching is dated, or that the curriculum needs to be overhauled to include more practical skills and knowledge. Perhaps that doesn’t mean cutting out the academic aspects people like to cling to. Perhaps instead the curriculum can be streamlined, adding lessons on important life skills, reducing stress and socioeconomic and ethnocultural divides in education, while promoting a more cooperative approach to education between student, teacher, parent, institution, and government. All of this would be possible if the judgement of academic achievement could simply cease to be based on standardized tests.