Standardized Tests: What's the Point?

Standardized testing. Two words. Five syllables. Every single teenager is aware of its infamous reputation. Whether it be the SAT, ACT, OAA (in Ohio) or another assortment of random capitalized letters, these tests are dreadful.
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Standardized testing. Two words. Five syllables. Every single teenager is aware of its infamous reputation. Whether it be the SAT, ACT, OAA (in Ohio) or another assortment of random capitalized letters, these tests are dreadful. I'm convinced that the testing industries take the first three letters they see in alphabet soup and then create a new standardized test name.

What's the problem with standardized tests? Everything. These tests strip you of your identity and you suddenly become a barcode. None of your achievements or ambitions in life matter, and these tests don't measure your personality. The people who grade these have no idea who you are as an individual, and what you are capable of. These tests claim to measure a student's intelligence, but the reality is far from that. Most standardized tests can fail to give every test taker an equal opportunity. Sometimes a student is distracted during an test by a personal situation. Whether it be relationship issues, a family emergency or maybe they're just flat out having a rough day. Their performance during that limited time period will reflect a year's hard work. On the other hand, some students can easily take advantage of any standardized test by paying for expensive study materials and classes unaffordable to other test-takers: Barrons sells AP U.S. History flashcards for $17.09, while the average SAT course costs $1,100. In both of these situations, standardized tests discriminate against students dealing with issues outside of their control.

Standardized tests measure a student's ability to memorize information. Students are required to bubble in an answer that best fits the question, all under a strict time limit. The subjects for these tests vary from English, Writing, Social Studies, Science and Math. But, what about the kids who are passionate about art? Or the kids who are passionate about topics the teachers don't teach?

A major issue about education today is that teachers "teach to the test." In other words, some teachers only educate their students on topics that are going to show up on standardized tests in the future. In my opinion, it's not fair to our education. We should be learning for ourselves, not for others. If a student is passionate about a topic that won't show up on the test, they have no way of exemplifying their thoughts. Education should be about helping a student discover their niche, not teaching a student how to pass a standardized test.

An obsession with testing robs children of their childhoods. My aunt is a middle school teacher, and she definitely agrees with this. She tells me that everything she plans in advance for her class will end up benefiting them on their standardized tests at the end of the year. As a teacher for inner-city kids with low test scores, she is required to "teach to the test" in order to keep her job.

Especially for younger students, standardized testing is extremely stressful and can also be intimidating. When I was in elementary school, we took these standardized tests called the OAT's, which stood for Ohio Achievement Test. A few years later, they came up with the OAA's, which stands for Ohio Achievement Assessment. What's the difference? Absolutely nothing, besides replacing the word "test" with a nine-letter word instead. The reason for this was because apparently the word "test" freaked kids out too much. At least, that's the reason according to my middle school teachers.

Today, our generation is being smothered by standardized tests. It's like an addictive drug for school systems, they can't seem to get enough of them. Next year in many schools, Common Core will come into play. The Common Core is a set of academic standards in which teachers are required to teach their students. These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. Students will take a pre-test at the beginning of the year and a post test at the end of the year which will let teachers know how much their students have improved.

Standardized tests are an unreliable measure of student performance. The Brookings Institution conducted a study in 2001 which found that 50-80 percent of year-over-year test score improvements were temporary and "caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning." In high school, some standardized tests that we take have no effect on our grade whatsoever. Because of this, students don't take the tests seriously which ultimately result in inaccurate test scores.

The next time the testing industry looks into their bowl of alphabet soup and attempts to come up with a new standardized test name, they might want to think about the effect it'll have on the people who are taking it.


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