Standardized testing in American education—research paper topics

The news surrounding standardized testing in American education in the last 20 years has been nothing if not controversial. While most can agree that U.S. students need to be evaluated on what they are learning, how that evaluation should be done is more challenging to come to a consensus on.

Standardized testing offers a variety of research topics to cover. (Credit: The Yellin Center)

Standardized testing offers a variety of research topics to cover. (Credit: The Yellin Center)

What are the pros and cons of standardized testing and how educators can best use the data from these tests are just a few of the interesting research paper topics to explore.

The pros and cons of standardized testing

While it may seem that standardized testing is a recent development in the American education system, in fact U.S. students and others have been engaging in some form of learning or developmental evaluation since the start of the 20th century. In World War I, servicemen took the Army Mental Tests; the SATs came into being in 1926. The development of standardized testing, including the introduction of electronic scanners, or the evolution of the testing since its first use on U.S. students, is a research paper topic to consider.

Currently, most news about standardized testing revolves around the controversy of it. weighed in with “Is the Use of Standardized Tests Improving Education in America?” and offered a list of pros and cons:


  • Standardized testing provides a great deal of helpful information about student learning in little time.
  • Other professions like lawyers, doctors and pilots use standardized testing to ensure applicants are knowledgeable.
  • The tests help teachers focus on the important information that students need to learn.
  • “Standardized tests are inclusive and non-discriminatory because they ensure content is equivalent for all students.”


  • Standardized testing has not improved the achievement of U.S. students.
  • The tests don’t provide a reliable measure of how students are learning.
  • Standardized tests only look at a small part of what students are learning in the American education system.
  • The tests narrow the subject matter of what is taught.

Adapting standardized testing

The future of standardized testing in American education no doubt will include adaptations to how the tests are given and what information they cover. Research paper topics could delve into some of the changes that educators would like to see or a comparison of the differences between the testing done in public schools versus the standardized testing for colleges and beyond, such as the SAT, LSAT or GMAT.

The president recently weighed in on the standardized testing controversy as Bradford Richardson posted on’s Briefing Room blog on October 24, 2015, in “Obama calls for cap on standardized testing.” Richardson wrote, “The president’s call for testing reform follows the release of a study by the Council of Great City Schools on Saturday that shows students spend 20 to 25 hours per year taking standardized tests.” That equals 2.3 percent of classroom time devoted to standardized testing for U.S. students. President Obama is calling for that number to drop to no more than 2 percent.

What to do with standardized testing results

If you are investigating standardized testing in American education, is a great resource for possible research paper topics. For instance a full-text book, How Teachers Can Turn Data into Action, by Daniel R. Venables, offers insight into the topic.

No matter where people come down on current standardized testing, pro or con, the need to evaluate U.S. students will not go away. In his book, Venables dealt with what to do with the information obtained from tests to help students learn better. He discussed the importance for educators of drilling down into microdata. “The problem lies in viewing only the macrodata and stopping there. … A good place to start, macrodata may tell us what is happening and perhaps even to whom it is happening, but to find out why it is happening and how to fix it, teachers and teacher teams need to turn to the more detailed and frequent microdata.”

Want to learn more about accountability in education and educational standards? Check out Questia—particularly the section on standardized testing

How could the American education system better evaluate U.S. students other than using the current slate of standardized testing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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