The Aging of Standardized Tests

d6c149b6-8aec-4966-90e0-228b8fa7b3aa-Therightone(May 2, 2013) — We all know standardized tests are mandatory for most high school students. With the exception of senior year, we’ve all taken STAR tests, or Standardized Testing and Reporting, every year. Other than that, we also have to take other tests like the SAT, PSAT, and ACT. But do standardized tests really work? Are they really effective?

Well, for measuring how well we read and write, and how well we can apply math formulas, standardized tests are excellent. However, according to education researcher Gerald W. Bracey, qualities that standardized tests cannot measure include creativity, critical thinking, curiosity, leadership, resourcefulness, among other qualities. Don’t get me wrong. I believe it’s equally important that we can read, write, and solve math equations.

The earliest schools in America taught children the fundamental skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. Standardized tests evolved out of the public education system, which was geared to preparing the youth to become adults with the proper skills they need to effectively contribute to society. However, this is not how the world works anymore. Our world demands more than the basic skills we learn in school. We have calculators and the Internet to tell us what we don’t know. Information is literally a click away.

In our world, most jobs are either being outsourced to other countries, or being done by machines, and the skills valued in the American work force are creativity, critical thinking, curiosity, leadership, and resourcefulness. The need for the everyday “A student” who knows all the facts is giving way to the creative left-brained student who can “think outside the box.” The factors that standardized tests are supposed to test for are no longer as important as the factors they don’t test for in our modern job market. And the multiple choice format allows people to guess instead of actually knowing what the tests say they know. According to education writer Kristina Rizga, each state makes its own test questions which vary in difficulty. Students nationwide are being assessed through a test that could be entirely different from the tests given in another state. This system of assessment has also led to a rise in test-prep classes.

Students can now pay a hefty price to learn how to take a test, instead of actually learning what is on the test. A student who took one of these classes and got a high score on their SAT may well be on his way to a good college and a bright future, whereas a smart student who just isn’t good at taking tests and scored average may well be on his way to an average college and a mediocre future. Why? All because of the objective system of standardized testing. Another problem is that students futures ride heavily on standardized tests like the SAT and the PSAT.

Your SAT scores determine which universities you get into, and your PSAT scores determine whether or not you qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. Some universities even offer you scholarships just for being a National Merit semi-finalist. This is entirely unfair because it puts a student’s entire future on a single test, taken in a given amount of time. Students who slept late, don’t feel well, or have test anxiety are being unfairly assessed by a test that will affect the rest of their lives.

The SAT and PSAT are timed tests, which forces students to focus, and puts them in a stressful environment. Students are now not only assessed by their knowledge or reasoning, but by how fast they can do it as well. Not everyone takes tests the same way. Some people do really well on standardized tests because their brain can respond and function efficiently under a stressful test taking environment.

Others, however, aren’t so lucky. Other students perform better in long-term assessments, subjective assessments or other ways of measuring knowledge that don’t involve taking a stressful, objective standardized test.