Standardized Testing Pros and Cons

standardized testing pros and cons and the bubble sheet

Welcome to the Standardized Testing Debate!

We need an alternative to test taking

I love my wife for many reasons, but one cute thing that she does is text and email me articles that she thinks should be featured on Better Leaders Better Schools.  Recently she sent me this article from NPR discussing the trend to boycott “high stakes” standardized tests.

According to the author, this recent explosion of civil disobedience has put the federal government in an interesting position.  How will they handle these standardized test revolts and what will the consequences be?

I can’t say that I blame the communities that protest standardized tests.  I think they are a poor, but efficient manner of sorting and evaluating schools.  In my opinion, they do not fairly present what students know and can do … instead they only show that students can be obedient and either poor or successful test takers.

Standardized Testing Pros and Cons

My brain wants me to neatly look at difficult topics and say “this is right” or “this is wrong,” but the fact of the matter is that life doesn’t work that way and rarely is it so black and white.

Here is my short list of standardized testing pros and cons.


  • traditional & comfortable
  • help measure schools vs other schools
  • easy to administer to students
  • easy to sort students


  • traditional & comfortable
  • easy to administer to students
  • easy to sort students
  • disadvantage students of color
  • shows a students performance at one specific point in time

If you’d like a longer list then this article is the first Google hit you’ll come across if you search the keyword: standardized testing pros and cons.  The article lists 22 viewpoints for each side of the coin.

I also suggest checking out this video by Seth Godin.  It’s under 20 minutes and worth every second.   The video is called “Stop Stealing Dreams” and in it Seth shares a brief history of standardized testing and offers some solutions to the stagnation that public education finds itself facing.


Let’s Call It What It Is

Measuring school performance and budgeting …

standardized testing pros and cons is about money

My view is that standardized tests boil down to measuring school performance and money.  Standardized tests are an easy way to measure schools vs schools and to create a school performance profile to communicate to families which schools make the cut and which are under-performing.  These scores also tell government officials where to send the funding.

I always found it ironic in the federal model and many state models the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  How does it make sense to cut or reduce funding at schools that need it the most?

What do I suggest?

Look at the body of work in a public display

school performance measured in public

In an ideal scenario schools would be measured in a more holistic way.  I admire schools that judge students based on the portfolios they complete by the time they are a senior.  One reason I like portfolios is because they aren’t a single moment in time like a test.  They show the longitudinal body of work.  If a student can prove they have learned over 4 years of study, then they earn a diploma.  I am much more interested in this kind of real-world and authentic learning.

Speaking of authenticity the defense process of defending portfolios is intriguing.  High Tech High and many other schools around the nation are engaged in this kind of public displays of learning.  In fact, the founder of High Tech High mentioned that during these expositions the public sees if the school is succeeding or failing and I agree with him.

Check out High Tech’s website.  Here are a number of examples of the deep and authentic learning they expose kids to consistently.

The only problem is that it’s messy.  The kids aren’t sitting in rows and bubble sheets are nowhere to be found.

Did you enjoy this post, Standardized Testing Pros and Cons?  If you did I would be honored if you would share on social media.

Please consider leaving a comment and discussing the following three points:

  1. What are the standardized testing pros and cons?
  2. Can you identify better alternatives to standardized testing if they are needed?
  3. What is the best way to measure school performance outside of standardized tests?  How are schools evaluated in your community?

Thanks and I look forward reading your responses!

Daniel E. Bauer is a BOSS


Skype: betterleadersbetterschools

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I teach leadership skills through a data-driven and emotionally healthy approach that gets others to perform their best.


P.S. I wrote a short eBook highlighting what I learned from the WCA Global Leadership Summit.



“Exam” by Alberto G. licensed via CC 2.0

“untitled” by Beata Ratuszniak licensed via CC2.0