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Standardized Testing: Is It Worth It?

Schools and states have forced students to take standardized tests since elementary school to test skills in reading and math so that the government and other organizations can compare the supposed knowledge of their students to others nationwide. In Pennsylvania, it is known as the PSSA’s. The most important of these standardized tests are taken in high school: the SAT and the ACT. They have the power to determine whether or not a student gets into college.

Many places of higher education require either an SAT or ACT score for comparison to their pre-determined cut-off number. But with more and more colleges and universities moving towards being test-optional, and the popular opinion among many students that their test scores do not represent their academic ability, these tests have become obsolete and need to go.

The SAT became a universal testing tool in 1946 with the founding of the College Board after being introduced in the U.S. Army to test I.Q. The College Board’s “About Page” claims that the SAT helps students successfully transition to college because of the knowledge it tests and the programs offered to help prepare them for the test.

The ACT began in 1959 at the University of Iowa, pioneered by professor E.F. Lindquist and Registrar Ted McCarrel and focused on academic achievement as opposed to the SAT’s test of aptitude. Like the SAT, the ACT is supposed to test a student’s college readiness and offers programs and practice tests to prepare them for college.

The organizations that created and run these tests acknowledge that the tests are difficult and require a lot of preparation so that students do well on them and can get into college. But these organizations are the ones who imposed the tests on students in the first place instead of trusting the education system to prepare them for higher education.

Reason one to eliminate standardized testing: more than 1,000 colleges across the country are test-optional, and more colleges are following their lead. The first to eliminate the requirement for SAT or ACT scores was Bowdoin College in Maine in 1969, following a Bates College study showing that those who submitted test scores did not show any higher rates of graduation or better academic performance than those who did not.

Though the SAT was meant to level the academic playing field for all students, it was created in a time before admissions counselors had details about the academic rigor of the high schools of prospective students.

Reason two to eliminate standardized tests: grades are a better predictor of success in college, according to Robert Schaeffer from FairTest, an organization that addresses fairness in student test taking and scoring. This makes perfect sense; being tested on subjects that students actually learned is a much better indicator of how well they understood the topics they learned instead of testing them on irrelevant knowledge that they may not have covered in class. Furthermore, according to a 2016 survey by the National Education Association, 70 percent of educators say that their primary state standardized test is not developmentally appropriate to their curriculums. Plus, colleges now have detailed information about the rigor of high schools, so they can look at how well a student did at their school in relation to their grading process. We do not need some randomized test that covers what these organizations think students are learning anymore.

Reason three to eliminate standardized tests: many students feel that they are poor test takers; I know many of my peers in both high school and college have said that they do not think they are strong test takers. Furthermore, a majority of my fellow students, including myself, have said that they do not feel that their SAT and ACT scores accurately represented their academic abilities or their abilities in general outside of the academic realm. For example, some students are able to figure out the test, thereby bypassing the need to study and learn the knowledge that they supposedly need in order to be prepared for college. Other students are more creative and have artistic abilities that these standardized tests ignore.

Eliminating standardized testing will allow students to focus on their classes and learn the information that they are being taught instead of worrying about what happens if they haven’t learned something that is on a standardized test. Colleges are also concerned with grades, co-curriculars and in many cases, the personal essay. It sounds to me like colleges have plenty of material to make a decision about whether or not to admit a student, so why worry about a score that may or may not represent their applicants?