The idea behind the standardized testing policy movement is that testing is the first step to improving schools, teaching practice, and educational methods through data collection. Proponents argue that the data generated by the standardized tests act like a 'report card' for the community, demonstrating how well local schools are performing. Critics of the movement, however, point to various discrepancies that result from current state standardized testing practices, including problems with test validity and reliability and false correlations (see Simpson's paradox).
Critics charge that standardized tests in fact become a mandatory curriculum placed into schools without public debate and without any accountability measures of its own. Many feel this ignores basic democratic principles in that control of schools' curricula is removed from local school boards, which are the nominal curricular authority in the U.S While some maintain that it would be preferable to simply introduce mandatory national curricula, others feel that state mandated standardized testing should stop altogether in order that schools can focus their efforts on instructing their students as they see fit.
Critics also charge that standardized tests encourage "teaching to the test" at the expense of creativity and in-depth coverage of subjects not on the test. Multiple choice tests are criticised for failing to assess skills such as writing. Furthermore, student's success is being tracked to a teachers' relative performance making teacher advancement contingent upon a teacher's success with a student's academic performance. Ethical and economical questions arise for teachers when faced with clearly underperforming or underskilled students and a standardized test.