A comment over at Chaz's blog called for standardized testing in every subject as to determine where kids are really learning. I wonder if this person really understands how little standardized tests show.
Last year, 27 out of 29 students passed the algebra regents in one of my classes and 26 out of 31 passed in the other. These results were great looking at the entire picture, considering the students knew nothing when they came into the third term of a four term class in September. (The teacher they had the previous year went out on sick leave mid semester and a new teacher was never put in her place.) A standardized tests made these kids look successful, and in some sense of the word they were. But, and it is a big but, these kids still know no math. They are not prepared to go on to the next level. And, the worst part is, they will expect to pass the next levels by doing the same level of nothingness. In this case, the standardized test did more harm than good.
On the flip side of the coin, there are kids who just don't do well on standardized tests. They are extremely bright, know the material inside and out, but just cannot make the connection between their brain and their hand. The correct answers just never make it to paper. Over the years I have seen many of these kids struggle through school and then go on to be big successes in college and in career.
My AP believes in standardized final exams. He believes kids who can't pass them should not pass the class. Unfortunately, the standard exams in my department are a joke. One teacher makes up an exam for everyone in a particular course. While there is supposed to be input from others, there often isn't any. Many of the teachers just use old exams instead of writing new ones or use computer generated examples that the kids have been working on all year long. The same exam (or an extremely close version) is given periods 4 - 12 and many of the students go into the exams knowing the answers before they have even looked at the questions, not an effective evaluation at all. On the other side, there are honest kids who don't do this. There are kids that are so overwhelmed with 5 or more exams in a 3 day period and just can't think straight. These kids don't do well. Should they be penalized for failing this standardized exam?
I'm not advocating doing away with standardized testing, I'm just saying they are not the end all and while they should be looked at, their results should not have the final say on anything.