Ok so aff seems pretty easy. it seems like the only neg argument is that we need one test that holds all students to the same level. Are there any other, better neg arguments we can think of?That claim shows the basic instrumentality of standardized tests: they're not intrinsically good, but are only worth the goods they bring to those who take them, or those who administer them, or the society that requires them.
What are those goods?
A standardized test, when properly designed to eliminate subtle biases, levels the playing field in several ways. It exposes deficiencies in particular classes, schools, districts, or states, which allows educators or policymakers to allocate resources, change teaching strategies, etc. It can also expose inequalities across relevant demographic factors--race, gender, socioeconomic status, and the like. (The last, in educational research, is usually the most powerful determiner of one's educational fate.) Standardized tests have sparked real educational reforms, and an overall interest in overcoming the "soft bigotry of low expectations," in George W. Bush's memorable phrase.
A standardized test is more objective than a teacher's gut feeling or a parent's pride. Administered in a tightly controlled environment, it's arguably less amenable to cheating or other kinds of corruption.
A healthy democracy depends on an informed citizenry; the foundation is public education. Standardized tests in subjects that society, through democratic processes, has deemed educationally essential--math, science, history, letters--ensure a "floor" of democratic competence.
National Security / Economic Stability
Educationally, the U.S. lags behind other nations. The Neg can argue that this is because of the U.S.'s disparate, hodgepodge system of "local control," and that the use of standardized tests is a remedy.
That's great, I can hear you saying. So taking a test is important. Let's require everyone to take the test, then, but not require it be passed for graduation.
First, passing the test helps guarantee the worth of the diploma to cautious or skeptical observers, including employers and college admissions officers.
Second, and perhaps more important, it ensures the test is taken seriously. Consider Washington state. The WASL has four components: reading, writing, math, and science. Reading and writing are required for passing since 2006; as this handy chart shows (comparing my school's results to the state average), scores improved significantly after that year. (Yes, there are several counterarguments, and I'm glad you're already thinking about them.) In contrast, the math test has been an on-again, off-again requirement over its history, and scores have reflected that, including a significant dip this past year when students were able to graduate after failing, provided they continued taking math courses. Science has never been required, and our scores are abysmal.
Not only is the passage requirement essential for students to take it seriously, but it adds an extra layer of accountability for teachers. (The Aff might say, "merit pay would work better," but the Neg could respond that merit pay without an objective measure, like test scores, is susceptible to cronyism.)
For all the arguments listed above, accountability is the linchpin to the entire Negative case.
Last, a word about strategy. DO NOT let the affirmative pin you into defending the status quo, or tests in their present incarnation. Tests vary from state to state, in quantity, breadth, and quality. If needed, create a resolutional analysis or overview that makes this as distinct from a policy debate as possible. It's likely that the affirmative will try to present evidence that testing has failed; you can argue that those failures aren't inherent to tests, but to the lack of political will to implement them. Or you can try to sidestep the empirical debate altogether, arguing the proposal on an entirely moral plane. (This is LD, lest this resolution make you think otherwise.)
Some responses to Aff arguments
1. This will make teachers "teach to the test."
"Teach to the test" is only as bad as the test. Make the test an accurate reflection of what students have learned, measuring it against what they should have learned, and teaching to the test can be a positive thing.
2. What about students with test anxiety, or who through no fault of their own fare poorly on tests? And is it fair to have such a limited slice of time represent a student's work and worth?
Think of an analogous situation: written (or, these days, computer-based) tests for driver's licenses. Nobody complains that they're somehow unjust, even though they cause much anxiety and are not always a fair representation of a person's true ability. The key is to allow retakes, and to remediate--to help students who struggle to succeed. Failure is just a speed bump on the road to success.
3. Tests are biased.
Not well-designed tests. And even a slightly biased test that helps "raise the bar" and improve education is better than a system free of individual accountability that leaves children behind. (See what I did there?)
This post in no way exhausts the options for the Negative. If you have other brilliant ideas for negating the resolution, or questions about my initial efforts, share them in the comments.