Stopping the Standardized Testing Juggernaut

It’s no secret that the education system in the US leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s a deeply complex system, and with it comes a unique set of issues. But at its crux, American education very much centers around a system based on offering prizes or punishments to individual students, teachers, and schools based on test scores.

An NPR article from last November lays out the state of testing in the US, and breaks down some findings from the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools.

“Their survey of large districts showed students taking an average of 113 standardized tests between pre-K and grade 12, with 11th grade the most tested,” writes Anya Kamenetz in the article.  


John Oliver offers an amusing and enlightened takedown of the standardized testing system on a recent episode of Last Week Tonight


The system is so dependent on testing as the main indicator of student performance that the test prep market in the US is a beast of its own, and it’s growing at a CAGR of 2.2% from 2014-2019.

Deep reliance on standardized testing as a performance indicator

Education standardization and benchmarking initiatives are fueling the growth of the test preparation market in the US. This emphasis on a standards-based education system has increased significantly since the enactment of the ironically named No Child Left Behind act.

In order to monitor student performance, a range of standardized tests are used at various levels, with schools being responsible for enhancing the performance of students in these tests.

And schools have plenty of incentive when it comes to doing well in tests— the US government has strict laws in place to deal with non-performing educational institutions, which include cutting funding.

To avoid losing what little funding they already have (and rather than fixing what is obviously a broken system), many schools are opting for test preparation services to teach kids how to take the standardized tests that will basically set the course for their entire lives.  

Advocacy against standardized test culture growing

However, not everyone is supporting this culture of standardized testing. In fact, there is enough opposition that it’s actually becoming a main barrier for growth in the test preparation market in the US.

“Many critics have vocally stated that relying on standardized tests, especially for K-12, will not prove beneficial in the long run. The tests conducted are not creating a conducive environment for the overall development of students, and leading to a dearth of opportunities for encouraging and fostering the individual talent of a given student,” say lead Technavio analysts.  

Basically, by failing to recognize the individual needs of students, the American education systems is truncating learning potential across the board.

And while standardized tests aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, individual students and even the schools themselves are pushing back against testing culture, which will seriously impact the test prep market over the forecast period.