Pro/con: Standardized testing
April 6, 2018
If not testing, then what else?
Diversity in schooling style calls for standardization method
Year-long projects in Wyoming, quiz after quiz in Arkansas, tests every Friday in Texas – whatever the learning method may be, it varies greatly from state-to-state. This diversity leaves but one method to be used to compare students from across the country: standardized tests.
For many high school students, the SAT and ACT tests are primary methods for being accepted to their choice college or obtaining a scholarship. For this reason, among others, these tests are integral parts of the secondary schooling experience.
The SAT, formerly called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, is a multiple-choice test composed of four or five sections: reading, writing and language, math with a calculator, math without a calculator and an optional essay.
The American College Test (ACT) is similar in some ways, though very different in others. The ACT contains English, math, reading and science sections. There is also an optional essay portion.
Although the sections in the two tests are nearly the same, each test aims to assess different components. This gives students of different learning styles, strengths and skills the opportunity to focus on and succeed at one of the tests.
Both the SAT and ACT are major means of receiving scholarships given by one’s chosen college. According to the scholarship database at the University of Texas at Austin, there are 32 available scholarships offered through the university, all of which favor students with higher standardized test scores.
Without a fully standardized test, colleges and universities, such as UT Austin, would not have the proper means to compare each applicant fairly and without bias.
Not only does a uniform test give all students the same chance, but it also gives students a back-up plan for their ticket to college. If a student does not do well in a school environment but is good at taking tests, they can be accepted based mainly on their test scores, even if they have mediocre grades.
While this is not saying that good test scores can make up for four years of C’s on a report card, having a great score on the SAT and/or ACT can substantially increase one’s chances of getting into a college.
The collegiate benefits of the SAT and ACT are only some of the many advantages that come with taking these tests. In the time spent preparing for the tests, whether one studies with a tutor or by themself, the student can often get ahead in regular school subjects. While in the long run, knowing trigonometry is not going to benefit everyone in their career, one still has to finish schooling. The standardized tests are, for the most part, based on what students should have learned up until that point in their high school career.
The test preparation also readies students for more than just a standardized test. Because some of the study material is sometimes not yet taught by the school, studying for the test could give students a head-start in that subject.
There can be a correlation between studying for the SAT and/or ACT and receiving good grades after all.
SAT and/or ACT. The “and-slash-or” part of that phrase might be the key component. One has the choice of taking either one of the tests, or maybe both. In fact, according to The Princeton Review, changes to the test in 2016 made the SAT more similar to the ACT for concurrent-studying purposes, while still upholding the integrity of their differences. This allows for students of different aptitudes to assess which is a better fit for them, and take that one.
Whether it is simply a way of testing students in the country the same, a contributor ticket to college or a method of raising one’s grades, the SAT and ACT tests are beneficial to be taken by students across the country.
Standardized testing scores become bad news for students
Scroll through any news site these days, and you will find an article about the mental health crisis many high schoolers are facing. With pressure to do well in school leading to nothing but hours and hours of studying, adding tests such as the ACT and SAT into the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.
This has made the SAT/ACT into an unnecessary stressor that needs to be stopped.
The SAT’s original purpose was honorable and made sense. James Conant, a chemist and the former President of Harvard University, advocated for the creation of a Scholastic Aptitude Test in order to stop the unfair advantages the higher class had of getting into more top tier schools, such as Harvard. Finally, it was created in 1926.
While the SAT may have stopped wealthier families from paying for acceptances into prestigious schools, it is far from an equalizer.
Today, students can attend prep classes for these tests, which can cost more than $3,000 for a starting freshman at places such as Karen Dillard College Prep or Michael Jordan College Prep.
However, due to the costliness, many students cannot afford to attend these classes, providing an unfair disadvantage to students who may be as smart, diligent or ethical as the next, but was born into a family that cannot afford these classes.
These students do not have access to the information about the tests that they may need in order to get the score that will get them into the college of their dreams.
In order to truly provide a fair chance to all students, regardless of social class, prep class costliness has to be lowered, something the College Board or the ACT company simply cannot control.
Following the SAT, more and more students were attempting to get into higher colleges, which created the need for another standardized test, the ACT.
While the ACT provided another option in the past for students, today students are taking both. Constantly studying for these tests, along with all of a student’s other classwork, can lead to even more stress that can negatively impact their academic performance at school.
“[These tests are] one of the things, especially during junior year [and the] beginning of senior year, that’s a huge stressor,” Coppell High School AP English IV teacher Matthew Bowden said. “I actually tutor privately SAT/ACT prep, so I know the stress that comes with that, I know the expectations that the parents put on the kids shoulders.”
Many people argue that the stress these students are facing are what they brought upon themselves, that colleges are not forcing all of the extra studying. While this is true, they are influencing something that often does control students. Parents.
Often times, many students are pressured and forced by their parents to do well on these tests, for fear that their kids will not get into the school of their parents dreams.
These parents see other kids with good test scores getting into school, and believe that they must pressure their kid to do more studying in order for them to get into a good school.
Another aspect of these standardized tests that renders them unfair is that they are rarely an accurate reflection of whether a student is intelligent or not, whether they can work well in a group and many of the other qualities that colleges consider when looking at students applications.
“People have different skill sets, and judging their ability as human beings to function in an environment should not be based on a single number,” CHS senior Jia Jari said.
Each student is more than just a number. We are real human beings, with complications in our lives that can affect how well we do on a test.
No matter the number, a test score does not show the hours upon hours a student spends studying, or the experiences they are going through.
It just shows how well we take a test.
Testing does not work for all students. Due to different techniques of learning, like visually, auditorily and tactically, student may have trouble taking tests.
A person’s technique of learning does not mean they are dumb. It should not determine whether or not they are accepted into a college. It just means that their brain is wired in a way that makes test taking more difficult for them.
Of course, everyone knows that the SAT and ACT are not the only things colleges consider. They consider class rank, GPA and their resume. However, these things are hard to maintain, and are made harder by studying for these tests, so in a way, their test score is reflected through these places.
Rather than focusing on a number, it is better to focus on who student’s are through their applications, essays and extracurriculars. These things show how hard they work, what their personality is like and ultimately, whether they are fit for a college.
The only thing that standardized tests reflect is how well a student can take a test, something that colleges really do not consider when looking at applications, without the test.
If colleges are not looking at that ability in an application, what is the need for another test?