Standardized tests are a series of assessments administered annually by public schools in the United States in order to measure and track knowledge that a student has acquired during a school year, in other words, their academic development. Math and English Language Arts (ELA) are tested in 3rd through 8th grade and at least once during high school. While there are other skills that are tested during some grade levels, Math, ELA, and Science are the most frequently tested core content areas. Standardized testing is required by federal law and assess whether or not students are meeting the predetermined standards for those subjects, which have been based off of the Common Core initiative since 2010.

Some Historical Facts About State Testing


Here are some interesting facts about state testing during history.


  • State Testing has been a part of the American education system since the 1800s.


  • Large-population state testing began in the 1970s and 1980s, when the United States started to assess nationally.


  • In 2012, the annual spending on assessments was $27 per student ($669 million overall). Including administrative costs, the cost per student jumped to $1100. 


  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 made standardized testing a requirement in public schools. 


  • The US Public Law 107-110, also known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, tied public school funding to standardized testing, results on the tests were used to allocate funds and resources to schools. 


  • The Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 10, 2015, was created to further allow student achievement and success. This act is currently still the law of the land and guides all that we do.


Students and Grades


When we think about grades we automatically think about assignments and tests during school, report cards and our final yearly grades, but grading is everywhere around us. Grades help us compare an unknown result against a standardized guideline. They help educators see at what level a student is performing and what skills may need reteaching or support.


A good example of this is when parents take their baby to the doctor. The doctor evaluates a baby’s health based on a standardized guideline or set of criteria. This helps the doctor and the parents understand how the baby is doing compared to other babies. Without a standardized guideline the doctor can only assume that the baby is developing well based on what he can see. 


The state designs assessments to effectively measure student achievement and growth in terms of each standard. They then set cut scores and use them to highlight how effectively schools are instructing their students and how that aligns to the standards. 


Benefits of State Testing for Schools and Districts


Is important to note that not everyone learns the same way. Teachers have to teach a large number of students and figure out which way to teach a topic so that everyone can learn. Evaluating students is the best way to know if the methods teachers are using are effective or not. Standardized tests can also help show how students are improving overtime. 


Here are 5 benefits of standardized testing:


  1. Standardized testing student performance on pre-determined standards aligned to the Common Core. Federal authorities prepare these tests based grade level benchmarks.
  2. By measuring a standardized list of knowledge among all students schools will know if the current education level being taught is efficient or deficient. It instigates a conversation on how to continue earning good results or how to improve results that are not up to the standard.
  3. Valuable data is acquired when standardized tests are made. Over time this data helps compare historical data on these standards. It helps guide school improvement and school comprehensive planning initiatives.
  4. Testing offers a fair comparison: Every student gets the same test and will be graded automatically by machines, so an objective result can be obtained. For students who have severe disabilities or language barriers, there are alternative assessments that can be used.
  5. Testing helps schools and stay on track with federal requirements and focus on ensuring quality education. Schools and states maintain ongoing communication with federal authorities throughout the process. This allows schools to adapt their curriculum and teaching methods, so they can include the government requirements and make sure students don’t fall too far behind. It also helps guide schools and school districts plan ahead and compare plans, budget, and professional development programming.

Check-out our website about state assessments, including videos from our Chief Academic Officer Dr. Karla Johnson, our principals, and even our students! has live viewable data for all to see. PALCS encourages parent feedback! For help interpreting or reviewing this data, please feel free to reach-out to our Supervisor of Federal Programs Zofia Swiatek at or 877-725-2785 x1108.