The Problems With Standardized Testing

In the today’s society, education heavily relies on standardized testing. However, these tests have evidently become controversial for teachers and education reformers everywhere. Every year, America spend millions of dollars on resting that is required/mandatory to be admitted into universities, colleges, or any type of post graduate school. A large amount of this money is used on tutors, programs/prep classes, and large books filled with practice tests that are supposed to increase students’ test scores. The real questions here are: Can these tests actually be accurately used to predict a student’s future grades or accomplishments? Are they truly important in determining where we go to college? Are they designed or easier for a certain class of people such as the wealthy? I, a student who has struggled through the process of standardized testing, believe that standardized tests are filled with problems and that America as a whole needs to move away from these tests and develop alternate methods of determining academic “worthiness” and grading performance. In all, I believe that there are far too many negatives within standardized tests to justify using them as an accurate scale. As an entire nation, we need to stop relying so heavily on standardized tests especially when you ponder what the stakes are for millions of students, teachers, schools, and families.

I am arguing the point of standardized tests being obsolete for many reasons. I believe that standardized tests can be biased and unfair to students. Also, where you go to school plays a large factor in how you test. Highly rated schools can have a big affect on how you test as you can be better prepared than a school in a low income area that does not have the budget to prepare their students properly. In addition, your home-life can affect how you perform on tests. In return, millions of students across the globe and their parents are choosing to “opt-out” of standardized testing. In her article “'Opting out' of standardized testing,'' Zaria Howell claims that Standardized testing is now becoming the most anxious part of education for students and teachers alike. Students are constantly worrying about having to memorize formulas, strategies, and devices. Meanwhile, teachers are worrying about their teaching abilities, being evaluated based on student scores, teaching for the test, and keeping their job overall. I believe that “teaching for the test” is a prevalent issue that needs to be removed from the classroom as soon as possible because it is wasting the time of students and teachers as there is no true education. This is highlighted by Howell’s following quote: “A recent poll by Teachers College at Columbia University, 'Who Opts Out and Why,' shows that 33.8 percent activists in the 'opt-out' community (the community devoted to eradicating standardized testing) believe standardized tests force teachers to 'teach to the test' by using drilling methods to promote die memorization of test answers, rather than 'inquiry-based' learning Rather than being encouraged to think critically and get the most out of their learning experience.” (Howell, 1). I completely agree with this because I can refer back to times in high school when I felt my teachers were just teaching us things to try to cram into our brains so we can score highly on the MCAS exam which was our form of standardized testing in Massachusetts. Honestly speaking, none of that information was retained by myself or my classmates.

My first claim regarding this argument is that every student tests differently and can show their strengths in different ways besides testing. For example, I had a 4.2 GPA in high school, was an NHS member, a captain of three varsity sports teams, and was taking AP/Honors classes. However, no matter how hard I prepared, once I picked up the pencil to fill out the piece of paper that the hierarchy of the CollegeBoard swears will dictate your whole entire future, I did not perform and often overthink my responses. The first time, I scored a 1060 (below average), and decided to retake it only to find out that I would do worse and score a 990. These together superscored to a 1080 and that is still well below average. I swore all the way up until I was accepted into all of my schools that this did not represent who I was as a student or a person. I know that I am not the only one that this happens to. Actually, it is quite common in this day and age. Students in Colorado find it so obsolete that some schools, including James Irwin High School (no. 8 in Colorado), had up to a ninety-percent opt-out rate! As illustrated by the following quote, students and parents alike felt that the test had no correlation to common core academics: “Like some other parents, Blackburn believes the testing isn't an accurate measure of academic performance. He said his son carries a 3.5 GPA yet scored 'partially proficient' on previous versions of standardized tests. 'It didn't make any sense to me,' he said. 'This (James Irwin) is the No. 8 school in the state. They're there academically. The standardized testing isn't in line with what's being taught in the schools.'” (Kelley). I can relate to this, as can millions of students, as i can honestly say that things I saw on the SAT I have never seen before in my academic career.

After producing an exhaustingly long list of issues surrounding standardized testing, it is most definitely necessary to acknowledge the reasons to support their use. Often times, teacher accountability is a good reason to use standardized tests. Teachers and schools are fully responsible for teaching students the materials that they need to know. The schools who fail to educate their students appropriately can be at risk of losing funds. In some cases, they can be taken over like some schools near me in Western Massachusetts who were taken over by the state. Another positive aspect is that parents definitely deserve the right to know how their kids are doing compared to other students in the area and students across the country. Without these standardized tests, it would be very difficult, maybe impossible, to make these comparisons. Standardized tests also help create sub-groups. This can help get data on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, special needs, populations, and whatever else. More often than not, the data used to create programs and services for these sub-groups is gathered by standardized testing. Lastly, tests also can produce data that will follow a student over their years at a certain school. It is far easier to monitor growth when a student takes the same test each year. For example, a student whose 6th grade state-test score is in the 75th percentile can see positive growth if his 9th or 10th grade score is below the 85th percentile.

This may be true, however all classes and all teachers are different. No two teachers in one school are the same or give the same work. Consequently, a B in one teachers class may be equivalent and of the same level as an A in another teacher’s class. I believe that we should be able to trust the teachers to report to the state and to secondary schools and colleges how the student is doing rather than the state telling them how they are doing when they are basing their results off of a test that in most cases, they are not truly ready for. One fact that really piqued my interest from the article “High-stakes testing hasn’t brought education gains” by Judith Browne Dianis told the truth about how test scores affect the classroom: “Standards and assessments are important for diagnostic purposes. However, too often, the data produced by standardized tests are not made available to teachers until after the school year, making it impossible to use the information to address student needs.” (Dianis, 2). This tells me that it is nearly impossible to address the problems at hand in the same classroom that you were prepared for the test. You receive the test scores fall after you take the test, and by the time you get your scores, it is now your problem. You are no longer in any of the same classes with any of the same teachers, and now your possibly underwhelming score is your issue. How is this conducive to a good education?

I would like my readers to consider how useless standardized testing is, and realize that it is not fair to let the students of our young, bright generation fool themselves into thinking that one piece of paper administered by the CollegeBoard is going to put a ceiling on their academic potential. I want my readers to realize that there is an abundance of ways to prove who you are academically, and to prove what you can do for a college and at the next level as a student and as a member of a society. Things such as community service, athletics, extra-curriculars, a good interview, a solid application essay, and many other things can impress a school far more than any test score can. I know if I am an admissions person, a solid interview and a good handshake are far more important to me than a test, because it is about who you are going to be while on a campus and in the community.

As I have gone through this personally, as multi varsity sport athlete, a member of my local NHS chapter with hundreds of service hours, and the holder of a 4.02 GPA, I slipped up and earned subpar scores on my SAT twice. This is mainly why I believe that we can assess a student’s potential and what they can offer at the next level in multiple ways other than a single test. Testing a student under pressure and putting all the pressure of what they’ve done academically up to this point into one test is not a fair assessment of how they can flourish in college. After earning these scores, I said enough with this and submitted my scores to my test optional schools. In doing this, I realized that college and your education is like life in general; it is what you make of it. What inspired me was the test optional nature of the three schools I applied to: The University of Hartford, Sacred Heart University and American International College all chose to look past the SAT scores as I was accepted into all three with presidential scholarships and grants. This is not to boast about myself, this is merely because I would love to see more schools and more programs adopt this philosophy that there is more to a student than their test scores. As once said by the great Albert Einstein: “Not everything that is counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

07 September 2020
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