The value of standardized tests in measuring and improving student academic performance is often a point of dispute. Opponents of the tests say they are unhelpful, an unreliable measure of educational quality and a waste of time. Moreover, according to teachers’ unions, the data they generate are “entrenching both real and perceived inequities” — presumably because they do not show equal academic performance across all schools.
Yet in developed economies around the world, standardized tests are in wide use. Across the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a survey of school principals found that approximately three-quarters of 15-year-old students attend schools that use mandatory standardized tests at least once annually.
In Canada, standardized tests are used more frequently than the OECD average but less frequently than in either the United Kingdom, where, according to the survey, “all school principals reported that such tests are used once a year,” or the United States, where “almost all students” are assessed with a mandatory standardized test at least once annually.
The tests are used for a wide variety of purposes. The majority of school principals in Canada and across the OECD report that standardized tests help them:…
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