Standardized Testing in Urban and Rural Areas

Focusing on the rural and urban districts in the state of Ohio.

By: Hannah Stoepfel, Cullen Moore, Cierra Fancher, and Bill Kosinski


Image by ernestoeslava from pixabay

The following research was conducted to compare standardized testing in urban schools versus rural schools. Noticeably, through this research, that standard tests differ dramatically between urban and rural schools. Teachers can use this as a resource to gain knowledge about the differences between the types of schools when students are given identical tests across the board. This may also be a resource for teachers to refer to when trying to understand how the difference in diversity and inclusion in teaching and learning between urban and rural schools may add to the differences in their student’s standardized testing results.


Literature Review

Standardized testing is necessary within schools, but there is a point in which it gets to be too much for both the students and educators who are a part of the classroom. In the past few years, administrations have gone back and forth on whether to increase or decrease testing to truly recognize how students are learning and progressing as the school year goes on. Most recently, there has been a push against testing due to the fact that many educators have started to cater their teaching ways in order to get students ready for the tests instead of making sure students are truly learning the material. Many sources have suggested to lessen the amount of testing that students endure and instead make sure that the testing is truly valuable. This means that students are truly grasping the concepts they are being taught instead of memorizing information, regurgitating it on the test, and then forgetting it. The implementation of study sessions now and then will make sure that students will stay sharp and have a better chance at understanding the content they are being taught. 

Classroom Implications

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This study on standardized testing impacts all teachers, students, and administrators because of the “teach to the test” mindset that is pushed more and more frequently to everyone involved in the education system (Fletcher, 2009). A teacher’s work should not be evaluated simply because of a test that determines specific qualities of a student that not all children have. Therefore, the everyday teaching that educators do is affected by standardized testing because of the standards the teachers must follow and teach to their students. “Teach to the test” is so pressing because as more testing is required for graduation, the more pressure students have on them to achieve high scores on tests that only measure a certain level of intelligence. Teachers should not only focus on the content that they are teaching, but how they are presenting the content to their students. Many teachers try and add activities and assignments that allow students to deepen their understanding on a topic, but can ultimately be related back to content needed for testing, and unfortunately,  many sacrifices are made by teachers in order to make sure that their students are ready for the tests, since both the student and teacher are assessed on the results. With this being the case, many of the students feel forced to front-load and cram for tests, meaning most of the content being taught is being memorized in order to regurgitate it on a test instead of long-lasting learning. Teachers can show their students that they care about them by doing simple tasks such as knowing their names, understanding their learning strategies, and trying to make connections between the content and other things that students find interesting.

Related Legislation

President George W. Bush’s 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education reform severely impacted the use of standardized testing by expanding the use for them (Fletcher, 2009). The NCLB held schools accountable for how kids learned and achieved their goals, but also put more pressure on underperforming or understaffed schools. The NCLB affected every public school in the United States and was designed to help disadvantaged students who are minorities, speak limited or no English, live in poverty, or receive special education services (Lee, 2019). The act required public schools to perform annual testing to report academic progress, but if the school performed lower than the state requirement, the school would be labeled as “needing improvement.” The NCLB put more pressure on students to perform well on high stakes test while the district, if underperforming, continued to put pressure on their teachers as well. One of the most positive effects of the NCLB was inclusion (Lee, 2019). This act shed light on students who were struggling because of predetermined factors outside of school which were out of their control. This allowed the students to learn the same material as their peers despite their learning differences. However, in 2015, President Barack Obama introduced the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that kept some parts of NCLB and replaced others (Lee, 2019). ESSA continues to expand public education by including students of color, students with learning disabilities, and other differences as well, but pushes states to involve parents and expand personalized learning for each individual student.

Classroom Resources

  • Using Previous Assessments: Using either the previous year’s testing data to help the school district make curriculum changes, or use individual assessments to focus on what each individual student needs help on to improve.
  • Breathing Station: With a “breathing station” in the classroom, students would be able to take a break from learning stressors and go to a designated area to simply practice breathing techniques. 

    Image by from Pexels

  • Positive Affirmations: With the many stressors school brings to students, teachers could have a “positive affirmations” jar in which any student could resort to as a pick-me-up. The jar could be filled with man positive, optimistic remarks written by the teacher for the students. 
  • Out of School Influences and Academic Success: This specific source can be used as more of an educational tool for teachers. This is an important and useful source because it is important to keep the students outside struggles in mind when witnessing their in-classroom struggles.
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Recommended Resources 

  • American Psychological Association
    • In this article, the author speaks about education in urban schools. She goes into detail about the connection between the high-poverty families that fill the urban schools and communities, and how that affects the students. She speaks about how poverty in these communities needs to be recognized by public policy. This source will be useful because it is sometimes forgotten that students have outside lives that they bring into the classrooms. Thus, affecting the way the students perform in the classroom.
  • “Beyond Testing: Seven Assessments of Students and Schools More Effective Than Standardized Testing”
    • A book written by Debrorah Meier, speaks about how standardized testing is not the only solution to learning what all knowledge a student has.
  • Video: Should we get rid of standardized testing? – Arlo Kempf
    • This Ted-Ed video discusses what standardized testing is and what the pros and cons of this type of testing offers. Very useful to further understand why we use standardized testing but the effects it puts on students can often be detrimental and lasting.
  • Video: Is ‘The Test’ failing American schools? – PBS NewsHour


Photo by Wokandapix from

Through the research, there seems to be no conclusive evidence that rural or urban school districts preform higher than the other because there are simply too many variables to consider. Overall, the research shows the suburban school districts preform much better than urban and rural school districts because of the access to resources other schools do not have. Some studies even show that standardized tests are culturally biased against rural students because the information and questions these students are required to answer, do not apply to their lives (Roberts, 2017). This, therefore, puts children living in rural areas at a predisposed disadvantage that seemingly can not be fixed. Another study shows that the “boring” lessons teachers preform to students, specifically urban in this case, are causing standardized test takers to underperform because students do not want to learn (Mora, 2013). This is caused from the idea of teaching to a test. However, regardless of which school preforms better or worse, the key issue here is that standardized testing can be detrimental to students who are disadvantaged based on their specific school district and the area in which they preside.

Glossary and Key Terms



-The knowledge, skills or other characteristics of a test taker measured by the test.

Adaptive testing

-A type of testing in which the questions presented to the test taker are selected on the basis of the test taker’s previous responses. Good performance by the test taker leads to harder questions; poor performance leads to easier questions. The purpose of adaptive testing is to use testing time more efficiently, by not giving test takers any questions that are too easy or too difficult for them. Adaptive testing requires special procedures for computing test takers’ scores, because many different combinations of questions are possible, and some test takers get more difficult questions than others.

Assessment, test, examination

-These terms all refer to devices or procedures for getting information about the knowledge, skills or other characteristics of the people being assessed, tested or examined. The three terms are often used interchangeably, but there are some differences between them. “Assessment” is the broadest of the three terms; “examination” is the narrowest.


-Outside the testing context, this term usually means treating people differently because they are members of particular groups, e.g., male and female. In the testing context, discrimination means something quite different. It refers to the power of a test or (more often) a test question to separate high-ability test takers from low-ability test takers.

Distracters (or distractors)

-In a multiple-choice test item, the distractors are the wrong answers presented to the test taker along with the correct answer. Writers of test questions often use distractors that represent common mistakes or misinformation.


-Every Student Succeeds Act


-No Child Left Behind Act

Raw score

-A test score that has not been adjusted to be comparable with scores on other forms of the test and is not expressed in terms of the performance of a group of test takers. The most common types of raw scores are the number of questions answered correctly, the percentage of questions answered correctly, and, on a constructed-response test, the sum of the ratings assigned by scorers to a test taker’s responses.

Urban School

-Classified as city schools.


-These schools are characterized by geographic isolation and small population size.


Economic Status, Preparing for School, Physical and Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2019, from

Fletcher, D. (2009, December 11). Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews. Retrieved from,8599,1947019,00.html

Fuglei, M. (2014). How Teachers Use Student Data to Improve Instruction. [Blog] Room 241. Available at:

Glossary of Standardized Testing Terms. (2019). Retrieved November 12, 2019, from

Hudley, C. (2013, May). Education and Urban Schools. Retrieved October 14, 2019, from

Kempf, A. (2017, September 19). Should we get rid of standardized testing? [Video file]. Retrieved from

Lee, A. (2019, August 5). Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): What You Need to Know. Retrieved from

Lee, A. (2019, August 5). No Child Left Behind (NCLB): What You Need to Know. Retrieved from

Meier, D., & Knoester, M. (2017). Beyond testing: seven assessments of students and schools more effective than standardized tests. New York: Teachers College Press.

Mora, R. (2013). Standardized testing and boredom at an urban middle school. Counterpoints, 451, 96-104.

PBS NewsHour. (2015, January 22). Is ‘the test’ failing American schools? [Video file]. Retrieved from

Roberts, P. (2017, November 21). Standardised tests are culturally biased against rural students. Retrieved from

Teach. (n.d.). Urban schools. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Retrieved from