In high school, you are allotted four years to earn academic grades by working hard in your classes. This hard work should in turn secure you a spot into one of the colleges of your choice. Ah, if only it were that simple.
A dark cloud hovers over students when the first bell rings junior year… standardized testing. Most juniors have heard of it, seen it and underestimated it. The test is the national measure of students’ intelligence across the United States. The ACT and SAT standardized tests attempt to calculate college readiness and predict future academic success. However, this way of testing is an unfair method of quantifying a high school student’s intelligence because it is only one final grade across the board. In contrast, grades can represent a student’s hard work over the course of four years in multiple subjects. This sitting standardized test score is the deciding factor to what level of college excellence that individual is accepted. Not only does this test play a major role in college acceptance and placement, but it will also determine the scholarships a student is qualified to receive.
It’s the most frustrating feeling in the world to invest time into classes, build strong relationships with teachers and reduce their social life for academic success only to receive an unsatisfying test score. Imagine having completed four years worth of hard work, give or take some AP courses, and earning a below average score on a standardized test. Right there, that number, whether that be a 1 to a 36 on the ACT or a 400 to a 1600 on the SAT, will determine your next four years. All the time and dedication is irrelevant, and students become a number rather than an individual.
The initial implementation of standardized testing in the education system was created with good intentions, but half of the core academic and elective subjects that are taught in high school are swept under the rug. For example, history, art, music, business, social studies and more are ignored on this national level test. Although history is not standardly taught across the nation, this subject is a core topic that shouldn’t be ignored at the national level. How can a national test determine a student’s future if it is only testing half of the curriculum?
According to a 2015 study by News and Feature from the National Education Association, 70 percent of educators believe that their primary state assessment is not developmentally appropriate for their students. Even our educators don’t feel that standardized testing is a fair or accurate evaluation of a student’s academic and overall intelligence. Unfortunately, this test is the only way to easily compare student’s learning across the board.
Some students are unfamiliar with standardized tests, which makes it much harder for an individual to adapt to and succeed at this type of testing. Instead of the test examining an individual’s ability to showcase their knowledge and use creativity, it is simplified to only multiple choice questions. This format that the test relies on can only be learned by using the methods and memorization techniques that only some students have the resources to master through the use of a tutor.
In Marin County, many students have privileged access to a tutor, but this is not true everywhere. Most standardized test scores tell us more about the community that low-income students live in, rather than their intelligence. According to Thumbtack, the average cost of a tutor for standardized testing ranges from $50 to $70 per hour. The Nation Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) stated that the average yearly income for a family of four is as low as $44,700. On average, these low-income families just don’t have the means to support their child’s academic performance on standardized testing through tutoring. This puts these students living in poorer areas at a major disadvantage.
Standardized tests are supposed to literally be standardized, meaning that it is the same for everyone. This test is not standardized considering that some kids, based on their income and status, can afford a tutor, while others cannot. Tutors not only help with content, but they also assist kids with test taking strategies, which is one of the hardest skills for kids to grasp on these exams.
According to the United Press International (UPI), a study conducted by MIT researchers examined the brains of 54 students. This study revealed that high-income students have a thicker cortex tissue in areas of the brain linked with visual perception and knowledge acquisition than lower-income students. MIT researchers then determined that these differences in brain structure were linked to these differences in standardized test scores. These brain differences confirm that low-income test takers versus high-income student’s performances do vary based on income. According to a poverty study by UC Davis, “18.5 million people said they were in deep poverty, meaning that a household income is below 50 percent their 2016 poverty threshold.”
While students are adapting to this new type of test, they are in the middle of their junior year, the most crucial year for academic success. The aimed time frame to take a standardized test is towards the end of junior year, and the start of a student’s senior year. This is the most stressful time in a high school student’s academic career, considering college applications, AP courses and the overall level of academic rigor of junior and senior year.
Although one could argue that standardized testing is a way to measure kids across the country, a test that is based solely on an individual’s ability to memorize information is no way of measuring a student’s academic success and overall intelligence. A standardized test shouldn’t be graded by computers or quantified, but instead measured based on a students ability to think outside of the box, and push boundaries using their creativity.
The standardized test in Finland is called the National Matriculation Examination. According to the Washington Post, this standardized test is graded by teachers, and does not shy away from complex or controversial topics. This test requires multidisciplinary knowledge and skills. According to Business Insider, Finland has the best education system in the world due to its huge education reform that was implemented 40 years ago.
Students shouldn’t have to spend time learning a type of test, or trying to beat the system, but instead should focus on developing their intellectual capacity in and outside of the classroom.
Standardized tests can’t possibly measure an individual’s intelligence.