This piece by Anya Kamenetz is an excellent brief summary to standardized testing. It explains in lay men’s terms the difference between formative and summative assessment. It explains the concepts of reliability and validity.

It points out that schools have tested students throughout history, but leaves out a few vital facts.

Historically, most tests were written by classroom teachers for their own students, not by mega-corporations. Teachers want to know whether students learned what they were taught.

It does not explain the roots of standardized testing, which were firmly planted in the concept of intelligence or IQ. It does not explain that the early twentieth century psychologists who created the first standardized IQ tests believed that IQ was fixed and innate. They also firmly believed that IQ was determined by race and ethnicity. The most eminent psychologists wrote books and articles that we would today consider racist.

If you want to learn more about the history of standardized testing, read my book “Left Back,” chapter 4. The chapter title is “This Brutal Pessimism,” which is a quote from Alfred Binet, who was the father of group testing.