There were several great and interesting answers to this question by the experts above, and I agree with some and disagree with others. I do agree that writing is a huge component of learning that such a high percentage of students struggle with in an extreme way. Although standardized tests (like the Smarter Balanced assessment) do include writing, as did previous tests, the kind of writing tends to be very basic, and often times the topics are not very interesting, and certainly not of the students' choosing, or at times even in the neighborhood of where their thoughts and interests are rooted. That's why I am a bigger advocate of project-based learning, both in terms of writing, and also for other assessments such as oral presentation, research, community service and market research, etc. By immersing themselves in projects, students naturally become much more involved and interested in their work than sitting in a room with a timer, and being read a long list of boring instructions, then racing a stopwatch to finish. They also have a limited number of materials at their disposal when performing standardized tests, and I know for a fact many of them LIKE to do research and consult multiple sources when reporting on a topic. I mentioned oral presentation, and I also love acting and improvisational techniques as a way for students to express themselves, and these can be assessed equally well. As can the creation of videos, short films, book trailers, and powerpoint presentations that necessitate the use of images and various sound and video imaging programs. These are all valuable assessed skills. And especially in the field of science, there are countless outdoor projects that can be implemented to demonstrate mastery of certain concepts. Then the writing aspect of creating reports based on the results they have found, and/or testing the validity of their hypotheses are valuable assessment in and of themselves, as are building a robot or programming in a computer language like Java, etc. There are infinite other ways to assess students, but the issue always comes back to the "basics," and this is what we do need to know that students can prove they have mastered. Is the standardized test the best way to show this? Probably not, but I do understand why we use them to sift out the masses and the sheer population of all the students involved. A daunting task indeed.