How Standardized Testing Interferes with Education

As a junior in high school, I have experience in taking many standardized tests throughout my academic career — from state mastery tests in elementary and middle school to the SAT and ACT in high school. In recent years there have been hundreds of colleges across the nation that have indicated that SAT and ACT scores are not important when enrolling a student, therefore the questions must be asked, how well does a standardized test represent a student? What is the point of taking standardized tests? The theory behind standardized testing is this: students across the country take a similarly structured test and the students and/or districts who receive higher scores are considered more successful or if they are in high school they have a better chance of being accepted at higher ranked colleges. While this does make a faster and much more efficient method for schools across the nation to measure their students’ learning and, for colleges to sort through the tens of thousands of applicants, these tests certainly do not display real student ethic and academic intelligence.

Every student has a different level of test taking skills. Some find test taking to be easy and everything they studied can be easily remembered. However, some are also not as skilled in test taking as they can’t perform to their highest ability due to time restrictions or can’t properly remember what they studied. College Board had recently stated that these test scores will be proportional to the scores that a student would typically receive on a college leveled test. However the standardized tests are nothing like any other tests that students will take in their academic life. Even though they give students six hours to complete the test, many do not finish the whole test. In fact, rushing is extremely common while taking this test, and rushing through a test is a cause of lower grades for students who may actually know some answers but aren’t given enough time to finish. Because of this, the students panic and rush through the stressful test and perform at a lower level than their actual potential. Both the SAT and the ACT tests are very similar and cause those problems.

A school career should be about learning, and the strive for gaining knowledge. In a Huffington Post article the author questions the importance of standardized testing and how these tests reveal a student’s abilities. He stated that on average, 60% of students perform at a lower level than their overall grade point average. Apparently, many colleges across the nation agree, as they are moving away from looking at the SAT or ACT as part of a student’s application. Most of these colleges say that the SAT and ACT don’t actually measure if a student is ready for a higher level of education. It is also true that people who enroll students into a college have stated that overall high school performance was a more accurate representation of the student’s abilities versus the standardized test, which makes sense as one test should not represent a student.

In the middle of my high school years I have to put all the courses I am taking on pause so I can study for the SAT and ACT. I’ve seen many friends of mine in the same struggle and, in some cases needed to miss whole days of school to study. Taking this test is clearly detrimental to the learning of students and the ability to finish high school having reached your full academic potential. This would only be possible if the students are not worried about test taking and focused on learning. It may seem very difficult to take away the SAT and ACT when enrolling students. However, the removal of these tests in high school is not such a remote solution according to a fairtest.org article, which suggests that around 1,000 colleges and universities across the United States, which is a little less than a fourth, have began to disregard the SAT or ACT scores and only look at the students’ overall high school performance.

Standardized testing occurs in middle and elementary schools as well. Meaning the roots of these problems begin at younger educational level where there are state-mandated standardized testing. In Connecticut this test was known as the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT). This was a week long of testing which included all major sections of learning, reading, writing, math, etc. Basically it is an SAT over a week long period for younger levels of education. These state mastery tests are meant to tell the schools how well they are teaching their students. After giving the CMT an elementary school in Norwalk Connecticut was said to have failed based on standardized testing scores in 2010–2011. This elementary school was one of about 45,000 that were classified as failing, according to an article posted on USnews.com. This a ridiculously huge number of public schools that were told they were failing based on a state mastery test. Is it possible that there are that many schools failing to teach their children effectively? Or is this showing a flaw in the testing process or the test itself? This needs to change because it will only cause more problems as the schools will feel more pressured to teach students how to take a test rather than help the students to truly learn and comprehend the materials presented to them. In any educational system, it is important that students gain knowledge rather than learn how to take a test.

Despite these shifts away from mandatory testing within our country, there are groups of people who believe that standardized testing in the United States is good. The author of the brookings.edu article The Case for Annual Testing states that standardized tests are an accurate representation of students’ learning and academics grade 8 and below as scores are directly proportional to performance in future school years. Even if the results of the tests may be accurate, when moving up through the academic schools the only thing important to students will be learning the questions that are going to be on the test, which is very counter productive to the actual purpose of gaining knowledge and skills in school. Also once they reach high school they will struggle to get good grades if they do not strive to learn.

In the recent years standardized testing has really been put under a microscope. It is something that should be addressed as it is a huge, important aspect of an academic career, and for the rest of the students’ life. Standardized testing like the state level or the SAT and ACT allow students to get into college and continue down their life path. The ability to get into different colleges directly relates to the students future job and position. A single test in which a student does not perform their best should not define them and their academic ability. Students should go through their academic careers striving for knowledge, not looking ahead to taking a life changing test. In the future the United States is going to move away from such tests and change the focus of the academic world.