Standardized testing in need of serious review
For years, students applying to college have taken standardized tests that are sent to colleges to be considered as part of their applications. In the past decades, these tests have come to the forefront of a debate on their necessity fairness and relevance. Standardized tests treat students like the machines used to grade them – as though people were designed to function at the push of a button. Standardized test makers assume that students all fit into a mold and work against students who are “wired” a bit differently. Students who do not think the way the test makers expect have an extreme disadvantage. In order to remain a relevant aspect of the college admissions process, standardized tests must be considered in conjunction with other factors.
In addition to the concern students have about their college applications, standardized testing can damage students in pervasive ways. The term “test preparation” is equated with “studying.” The concept that students don’t “study,” but instead “prepare” for these tests, undermines students’ ability to focus on their real education. While preparing for a standardized test that offers them no lasting benefit beyond strategies specific to the test, students lose focus on their schoolwork and lose sight of what really matters. Resulting from a myopic perspective that influences students to place more importance on the test than necessary, students rob themselves of the opportunity to explore their innate talents and aspirations. Focusing on achieving a score that grants a student entrée into a particular school does not prepare them to function once they get there. While test scores remain a necessary evil when striving to gain admission to all private middle and high schools as well as college, students should not sacrifice self-knowledge and personal goal-setting on the altar of the perfect test score.
These tests have morphed from providing a measure of intelligence and academic achievement into a testament to how well a student prepares and conforms to universal guidelines. A drastic shift in attitude towards standardized testing has occurred in the last few years. Many thirty-somethings recall the time when no students studied for standardized tests – they simply showed up for the test and took it. Done. Over. No questions asked. As a result, the test scores functioned as an accurate assessment of a student’s problem-solving ability because the test takers were on an even playing field. Today, test-taking strategies as and test prep companies make sure the results provide detail about how well students can memorize, and, frankly, the size of their parents’ bank account, considering the amount of money most invested in the process. Those students will perform better because they are coached, not necessarily because they know the material. In fact, one could argue that test scores often separate the “haves” from the “have-nots.”
The bottom line: students are judged based on their scores. Some assume poor performance on standardized tests account for laziness or their lack of ability. Perhaps a better alternative to measure students would be to offer and assessment at the beginning of the school year and again at the end, such a system could not only gauge how much the student learned during the year, but could serve as an assessment of the school’s performance, as well. As it stands, standardized tests do not predict a student’s success in school or in life – so we must ask ourselves, “What is the point?” As parents, educators and future employers, we need to know if a student is an intelligent, well-rounded problem solver. If standardized tests are to maintain any sort of efficacy, they must be updated to a format that reflects how students learn today, as well as how well they will perform tomorrow.