Does Testing Motivate Students?

By Katie Ash — June 16, 2008 1 min read
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Here’s a story from The Seattle Times that tackles an important question: Does standardized testing motivate students? This year, on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, students passed in much higher numbers than predicted.

The kids rose to the occasion," [said one superintendent]. "I don't know what else to say. I was just absolutely blown away."

Of course, this was not the case with all students, and some education organizations, including the Washington Education Association, don’t believe that WASL scores should determine whether a student can graduate. Still, there are plenty of students and teachers who believe the test does motivate kids to raise the bar on their schoolwork.

After reading the article, it seems to me like the students who were motivated to do better by the WASL were those who were on the cusp of passing, while students who had trouble in school and didn’t think a passing score was in reach were further discouraged by the test.

What do you think? Do tests have the power to motivate students? Or do they put too much pressure on kids and end up squelching motivation levels? Does it depend on the student? And if so, is there a way to provide a standardized test that takes that into account?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.