The Ambiguity of Standardized Testing (by Ethan Crisi)

 

Imagine taking a test that may determine your entire educational future and claims it can sate your knowledge level for math, reading, writing, and science. While this would be a nice test to take to see your understanding of the major school subjects, many people today believe it to be extremely inaccurate and unfair. To further create uncertainty, high schools today use these tests to determine if you are ready to move onto college. These tests are called standardized testing and they are slowly becoming more and more difficult to achieve a high score on.

Just like many other seniors in high school I took the ACT and SAT standardized tests. I was a very responsible and hardworking student that took AP classes and graduated with a 3.8GPA. I knew I was fully prepared for college and had the deserving grades and transcript to move onto a higher education. However, even with my impressive grades I was still being forced to take a standardized test that I personally never felt represented my knowledge or college preparedness. For that reason, I have decided to analyze if standardized tests are accurate, reliable, and fair to all students across the United States.

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Over the past 10 weeks I have been volunteering at Butternut Creek Elementary School helping individual kids improve their reading and generic skills. One thing I have noticed during my volunteer time is how segregated students are based off their test scores. While elementary students don’t take the ACT or SAT, they still take required tests that place them into a specific level for math, reading, and science. This was very eye opening to me because I realized how soon our education system “rates” a student’s knowledge within a subject. However, after working with many kids I have found that some students should be in a higher level than what I thought they were placed into. Therefore, this could mean that these standardized tests are inaccurate and or the individual student is a bad test taker but knows the material.

 

Personally, I was never a good standardized test taker. Even though I took AP classes and graduated high school with a 3.8 GPA, I somehow always struggled when it came to standardized testing. One major aspect to standardized testing that I believe to be extremely unfair is time. When I took the ACT my junior and senior year I ran out of time within all the individual sections of the test. This forced me to fill in random answers right before time ran out, ultimately skewing my test grade. Not only did this happen to me but nearly everyone else I talked too after the test. In my opinion, both the ACT and SAT should not be timed so students don’t feel rushed and can have a fair chance to show what they really know. However, if I could choose I would decide to take standardized testing away as a whole. When students take standardized tests they normally don’t take them within a normal testing atmosphere that they are used too. Typically, the ACT and SAT are held in gyms or very big rooms that are cleared out with only desks in them. This creates even more of an uncomfortable environment for the students taking a test that can greatly affected their educational future.

While standardized testing is currently a very big part of determining your college future, there are things we can do to fight against it. First, simply get in the habit of attending school board meeting to voice your opinions about standardized tests. With enough people creating awareness of this issue the school board could feel more pressured into looking for solutions. Secondly, encourage parents to write frequent letters to the school board and local districts. This further backs up the parents that are already going to board meeting voicing their opinions. Next, get together a delegation of worried residents and then visit your state legislators and other public officials. Politicians sometimes will consider a topic more seriously if approached by a group of people that all believe in the same thing. Finally, create media awareness and voice your opinion. While changing standardized testing will be a long process it all starts with the little things to get the issue recognized more. Overall, if you wish to create awareness for the important issue of standardized testing there are many things you can be involved in.

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“Standardized Testing.” List of Books and Articles about. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

This article is a great source to anyone who is confused, or wishes to learn more about standardized testing. This article states many important points especially when it comes to the difference between standardized testing skills and a student’s knowledge. According the article, “The purpose of standardized testing is to provide universities and colleges with a quantifiable and unified method of evaluation of prospective students who have graduated from different schools with different academic standards” (Questia). Today, the most common standardized test that high school students take are the SAT and ACT. Questia is a very reliable source that is known for its trusted online research and it is also ran and operated by Cengage Learning. This article is a good resource for my blog post because it gives a solid idea of what standardized testing is and how it differs from individual student’s knowledge.

“What’s Wrong With Standardized Tests?” What’s Wrong With Standardized Tests? N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016

This article gives many examples of how standardized tests are inaccurate and don’t represent a student’s skill level, knowledge, or preparedness for college at all. When talking about if standardized tests are fair and a helpful evaluation tool, FairTest states, “…all test takers answer the same questions under the same conditions, usually in multiple-choice format. Such tests reward quick answers to superficial questions. They do not measure the ability to think deeply or creatively in any field. Their use encourages a narrowed curriculum, outdated methods of instruction, and harmful practices such as grade retention and tracking.” FairTest is a reliable source that simply advocates for the fairness of all tests that students take, especially when it comes to standardized tests. This article is important for my blog post because it talks about the fairness of standardized tests, if test scores are even reliable, and if test scores actual reflect on your knowledge and preparedness for college.

“Is the ACT Getting Harder?” The College Solution. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

This article is a great resource when analyzing the changes within the ACT and how they are unfair to different students around the United States. The article argues that the test has been slowly changing over the past 24-36 months, creating an unequal test that causes lower test scores for some individuals. It specifically affects students who are aiming to get a very high test score and wish to place within the top 20%, however it still also affects everyone else too. Many people on the east coast believe that standardized is “rigged” when compared to the SAT. The article states, “One mom had a son whose two diagnostic mock tests showed a top 45% score on the SAT but a top 5% score on the ACT…cold” (The College Solution). While there may be a difference between a student’s ACT and SAT score, it is hard to believe that there would be a 40% difference between the tests. This article is reliable because thecollegesolution.com is a creditable source that many professional and trustworthy individuals write important blogs about current problems about education. This is a great article for my blog post because it shows the difference between the ACT and SAT scores for an individual, and further backs up my belief that standardized tests are an inaccurate measurement of a student’s knowledge and college preparedness.

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3 comments

  1. Allison Schmidt

    Great blog post! You sound very passionate about the volunteer work you have been doing and also about why standardized testing doesn’t truly speak for ones level of intelligence. I like how you talked about real life situations of high school students taking their SATs and ACTs and also about your experience. I totally agree that the testing doesn’t truly show a persons intelligence, especially when it comes to the SATs and ACTs, the different test setting and the timing on sections can really throw someone off when taking a test, myself included. The examples you gave for people to get involved and make a stand against the standardized testing are great! You really put a lot of thought into ways to help and giving specific examples on how to do it instead of general ideas, making it a lot easier for someone to help make a change. The only suggestion I would make would be to show that if standardized testing doesn’t represent a students knowledge on subjects how can we know that they do know the subjects well enough to be sure they are prepared for the next level. Overall I thought it was a great blog and the articles that you included do a great job of helping prove your point and answer your question.

  2. Erica Bella

    Nice job Ethan! Standardized tests are definitely a current issue that students and parents are dealing with. It’s awesome that you were able to learn something you didn’t know from your volunteer experience, sometimes that helps you see a perspective you may not have before. It’s also helpful that you have some previous knowledge/experience with the topic. I didn’t take the ACT or SAT, and wouldn’t have got into college with my grades. I did however do pretty well on tests, odd right? It’s not that I didn’t know the subjects, it was more of a lack of effort. This is part of the problem also; I agree that you can’t judge a students abilities solely on tests, but you also can’t judge them solely on grades. I get that tests are difficult for a lot of students, but without them how can you accurately measure their understanding of the topics? I would have liked to see an option for an alternative to standardized tests, rather than just getting rid of them. Overall I enjoyed your post; I appreciate your suggestions on how to get involved as well as your passion!

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