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Standardized testing is a subject that many people feel strongly about. Most people either think that it is the best way to assess students' abilities or it is a stress-invoking nightmare for everyone involved.

However, if you step back and look at it objectively, it becomes clear that it is neither. Standardized testing has both positive and negative aspects and when used effectively can play a significant role in bettering the education of our students. The key, of course, is using the results effectively.

There are some who believe strongly in either direction. In addition to the pros and cons listed below, you can read more arguments supporting standardized testing, and an argument against standardized testing.
Positive Aspects of Standardized Testing
1) Standardized testing gives teachers guidance to help them determine what to teach students and when to teach it. The net result is less wasted instructional time and a simplified way of timeline management.
2) Gives parents a good idea of how their children are doing as compared to students across the country and locally. This can also indicate how your local area is doing compared against the national landscape.
3) Allows students' progress to be tracked over the years. When students take the same type of test yearly (adjusted for grade level) it is easy to see if a student is improving, losing ground academically, or staying about the same. (For example, if a child is taking a norm-referenced test and scores in the 75th percentile in the sixth grade and the 80th percentile in the seventh grade, you can see that the child is gaining ground in school.) This helps determine how a child is doing academically.
4) Since all students in a school are taking the same test (with respect to grade level) standardized tests provide an accurate comparison across groups. (For example, this makes it easy to see how boys are performing as compared to girls in a particular school or district.) Over the years great improvements have been made with regards to test bias, which has led to more accurate assessments and comparisons.
Negative Aspects of Standardized Testing
1) Many teachers are (unjustly) accused of teaching to the test. Most do not do this, but some feel so much pressure for their students to achieve a specific score that they do end up teaching to the test, whether they want to or not. This can make school drudgery for students and steal teachers' enjoyment of teaching.
2) Some school systems are under great pressure to raise their scores so they have resorted to decreasing (and sometimes doing away with) time spent in recess. This can have negative impact on children's social, emotional, and academic well-being. (Read more here.)
3) Standardized tests can place a huge amount of stress on students and teachers alike. This can lead to negative health consequences as well as feelings of negativity directed at school and learning in general.(Read more here about how to help students deal with this stress.)
4) As much as test creators try to do away with testing bias, it may be impossible to rid tests of it altogether. I once tutored a 5th grader who did not know what a recipe was. If a standardized test was to ask questions directed at a recipe, that child would have been at a huge disadvantage because most fifth grade students know and have had at least some experience dealing with recipes, but she did not. There is just no way to know for certain that every child being tested has a fair amount of knowledge going into the test.
Standardized Testing Uses
The key student success on standardized tests is balance. Those in charge need to step back and take into account both the good and the bad things about testing and find a way to help students succeed without causing them too much stress.
Will there ever be an end to the constant back and forth between testing advocates and those against standardized testing? It's hard to say, but I feel relatively certain that for better or worse, standardized testing is here to stay. I believe the key is to use the test results as a guide for teachers, parents, and students. They should also be used, in a limited capacity, to assess how well schools are doing. Standardized testing certainly should be used to help measure a school's success, but it should be one assessment among several that determines whether a school's students are progressing or not.
Source – http://www.brighthubeducation.com/student-assessment-tools/16137-the-pros-and-cons-of-standardized-testing/
 
Research shows that the “3 Times Rule” applies to mastery of new knowledge. That is, it requires three times as much time and effort to internalize certain information than it takes to learn it on the basic, introductory level.

As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” Throughout the competitive season, between events pro-gamers practice over 10,000 hours to advance their skills and prepare to face tough opponents. Similarly, throughout Eye Level study, between class sessions students practice concepts independently at home to reinforce their understanding and to prepare for more advanced concepts.

Self-Directed Learning (SDL) allows learners to practice as well as reinforce their understanding of content and processes through frequent encounters with what has been introduced in class. The diagram below shows how information in the short-term memory can become information retained in the long-term memory through the aid of the SDL process.ess:
 
Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve
The “forgetting curve” depicts the decline of memory retention over time, as hypothesized by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885. This curve shows how quickly information is lost when there is no attempt to retain it. A related concept is the strength of memory: the stronger the memory, the longer the period of time that a person is able to recall information after it is initially learned. A typical graph of the forgetting curve shows that humans tend to lose more than half of their newly learned knowledge in a matter of hours unless they consciously review the learned material.
Based on Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve, the most effective learning method for perpetuation of long-term memory is conducting the review (repetition) at the appropriate time.
 
 
Does a good grade always mean a student has learned the material? And does a bad grade mean a student just needs to learn to study more? In the new book "How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens" (Random House) written by Benedict Carey, a science reporter for The New York Times, challengers the notion that a high test score equals true learning. He argues that although a good grade may be achieved in the short term by cramming for an exam, chances are that most of the information will be quickly lost. Indeed, he argues, most students probably don't need to study more – just smarter.

Mr. Carey offers students young and old a new blueprint for learning based on decades of brain science, memory tests and learning studies. He upends the notion that "hitting the books" is all that is required to be a successful student, and instead offers a detailed exploration of the brain to reveal exactly how we learn, and how we can maximize that potential.

"Most of us study and hope we are doing it right, Mr. Carey says. "But we tend to have a static and narrow notion of how learning should happen." For starters, long and focused study sessions may seem productive, but chances are you are spending most of your brainpower on trying to maintain your concentration for a long period of time. That doesn't leave a lot of brain energy for learning.

"It's hard to sit there and push yourself for hours," Mr. Carey says. "You're spending a lot of effort just staying there, when there are other ways to make the learning more efficient, fun and interesting."
 
The first step toward better learning is to simply change your study environment from time to time. Rather than sitting at your desk or the kitchen table studying for hours, finding some new scenery will create new associations in your brain and make it easier to recall information later. "The brain wants variation," Mr. Carey says. "It wants to take periodic breaks."
 
Understanding how the brain processes, stores and retrieves information can also improve your study habits. For some people, cramming for a test can work in the short term but by studying only once in a concentrated fashion, the learner has not signaled to the brain that the information is important. So while the initial study session of French vocabulary words starts the process of learning, it's the next review session a few days later that forces the brain to retrieve the information – essentially flagging it as important and something to be remembered.
 
"When you are cramming for a test, you are holding that information in your head for a limited amount of time," Mr. Carey says. "But you haven't signaled to the brain in a strong way that it's really valuable."

One way to signal to the brain that information is important is to talk about it. Ask a young student to play "teacher" based on the information they have studied. Self-testing and writing down information on flashcards also reinforces learning. Another technique is called distributed learning, or "spacing," and it's a particularly relevant aspect of brain science for ambitious students. Mr. Carey compares it to watering a lawn. You can water a lawn once a week for 90 minutes or three times a week for 30 minutes. Spacing out the watering during the week will keep the lawn greener over time.
 
Studies have shown that for a student to learn and retain information like historical events, vocabulary words or science definitions, it's best to review the information one to two days after first studying it. One theory is that the brain actually pays less attention during short learning intervals. So repeating the information over a longer interval – say a few days or a week later, rather than in rapid succession – sends a stronger signal to the brain that it needs to retain the information.

Spaced study can also add contextual clues. At home, a student trying to memorize the presidents may hear the dog bark or the phone ring. Move the study time to the coffee shop a few days later, and the student hears the barista steaming milk. Now the list of presidents is embedded in the student's memory in two contexts, and that makes the memory stronger.

In a 2008 study of 1,300 people, University of California, San Diego researchers tested their subjects on obscure facts. (What's the name of the dog on the Cracker Jack box? Answer: Bingo) The study subjects reviewed the material twice at different intervals: some just a few minutes apart, others a day or week apart.

From the data, the scientists determined the optimal intervals for learning information. If your test is a week away, you should plan two study periods at least one to two days apart. For a Friday test, study on Monday and review on Thursday. If your test is a month away begin studying in one week intervals.

And not surprisingly, sleep is an important part of good studying. The first half of the sleep cycle helps with retaining facts; the second half is important for math skills. So a student with a foreign language test should go to bed early to get the most retention from sleep, and then review in the morning. For math students, the second half of the sleep cycle is most important – better to review before going to bed and then sleep in to let the brain process the information.

"Sleep is the finisher on learning," Mr. Carey says. "The brain is ready to process and categorize and solidify what you've been studying. Once you get tired, your brain is saying it's had enough."
 
Source – http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/06/better-ways-to-learn/
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