THE PROBLEM WITH STANDARDIZED TESTING

Written by Cher Valentine

Standardized testing used to be an evaluation of students and how well they learn, but in recent years they have become an evaluation for teachers as well. Teachers are evaluated on how well they can teach while students are graded on how well they can retain information and remember it. Both parties are aware of how important standardized testing is for their future but the question is: why do we allow a test determine our mental capability and worth? Why do we give questionnaires so much power to determine our future?

As a junior in high school, standardized testing is remarkably important. We have to take state-sponsored standardized tests like the ACTs and SATs, as well as Accelerated Placement exams, to prepare us to get accepted into college. These test determine the colleges we get into based on our scores, and give our future universities a valid or often invalid opinion of us. We are told that we must pass these exams as well as our in-class exams if we want to pass our courses and graduate high school. In the classes I am enrolled in, my tests are worth up to eighty percent of my grade, simply because it seen as the only way my teacher can be sure I know what I’m doing. However, the homework I receive does not reflect my tests and the things I am being taught in class are often not the things I see on my SATs.

Society weighs tests so heavily in the class of life but does not give me the materials I need to pass. I am taught how to take a test rather than what is on my test, and why I need to know it. I am told to go out and buy a book on test questions rather than being taught how to answer the question style. My math teacher has taught me how to properly guess a question before she has had the chance to teach me how to actually solve the problem. Standardized testing is a game of luck to general high school students rather than an honest evaluation. It has already been put in our heads that we do not know the information; that we may have to take tests twice because we were not prepared for them the first time.

Standardized testing requires memorization in the highest form and the mental ability of someone who has been studying the material their entire life; not three months. On tests like the ACT I am expected to read and answer within one minute a problem like: 

"Abandoned mines frequently fill with water. Before an abandoned mine can be reopened, the water must be pumped out. The size of pump required depends on the depth of the mine. If pumping out a mine that is D feet deep requires a pump that pumps a minimum of + 4D – 250 gallons per minute, pumping out a mine that is 150 feet deep would require a pump that pumps a minimum of how many gallons per minute?

We are given sixty minutes to answer sixty questions ranging in difficulty, and if we don’t answer one of them we are docked points. How are students supposed to do this when I know from experience that it can take some high school students entire ninety minute class periods to answer a twenty question test? Students take tests just like they learn: at different times, with different difficulties, and different abilities; a timed test with questions not even teachers know how to answer should not be the end-all decision for our futures.

Society puts children in school for twelve years, telling them what to know, when to use the restroom, how to dress, act, and talk, but forgets to prepare us properly for a test that decides what college we can go to- or whether we have the ability to get into college at all. There was a time when parents and higher-ups could trust a teacher's judgement about their classroom and students. When it was a teacher’s decision on how smart their student was and testing was given by the teacher and not the government. Of course you can’t always trust a teacher’s judgement on their class, given various implicit biases they may have, but how many standardized tests need to be given and at what difficulty? High school students should not have to be tested on college level math if they are not in college level math classes. If a student is not in AP English they should not be given those questions. For instance, math has always been a tricky subject for me, and during my ACT I was given a college level math question that threw me off track causing me to not finish the test in time. This type of incident is common for many students, and a great cause of test-taking stress.

Testing can’t measure the abilities of every person because everyone tests differently. Tests like the ACT or SAT should not determine so much of my future because they are not grading me on my intelligence, they are grading me on my ability to memorize formulas and recall knowledge from a passage I had to read in two minutes. The power we give to standardized tests restricts children from growth. My little sister who is now fifth grade has been taking standardized tests since third grade, and while the name of this test may be different in every state, the government requires various standardized tests so children are prepared for the tests they take in high school. We use words like “base ten” and “phonetics” with children who just learned how to properly distinguish “there” from “they’re.” Testing should not be something we use so heavily to determine a child’s future. Testing should not be the one thing that measures a child’s abilities. We have to begin to find various methods of assessing the knowledge children retain, because testing, especially standardized testing, is simply outdated.