Problems with standardized testing

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Standardized Testing Answer Sheet

While taking the PSAT for the third year in a row, I began to think about "standardized testing" in a more in-depth way. In recent years, I have taken ISTEPs (my state's standardized testing), PSATs, an ACT, and an SAT. I have listened to countless universities say that they take a holistic approach to the college application reviewing process. I have studied for the many different standardized tests, but for what? What do standardized test scores represent? What is a number score worth in terms of academic success?

I personally believe that there is an extreme need for a standard method for measuring a student's academic achievement. However, while going through test preparation and test taking, I have come to realize that the current standardized tests are not accurately representing students’ knowledge. Currently, standardized tests are the way colleges and competitive programs “measure” students. I know other students who are paying hundreds of dollars for private tutors just so they can ace the SAT/ACT. But is this fair? Thousands of students across the nation are doing just the same. On the other hand, there are thousands of students across the nation who do not have the funds for a private tutor or “Prep Classes.” Even further, the cost of testing itself is high. With an SAT and ACT with essay costing upwards of $60 per test, some families that do not qualify for fee waivers, cannot afford to let their children take the test multiple times. With AP, IB, SAT, and ACT tests all costing significant amounts of money, families with more money generally have more flexibility with the number of tests their children take. This causes middle/upper-class students to have an unfair advantage.

According to statistics I have found that were released from the College Board itself in 2016, score disparities between races, genders, and family income on math, reading, and writing were present. From 1972 to 2016 (when the data was released) females on average scored lower on math than males did. Is this a problem? Asians scored higher on the entire test on average than African Americans. Is this a problem? The College Board claims that “Relationships between test scores and other factors such as educational background, gender, racial/ethnic background… are complex and interdependent. These factors do not directly affect test performance; rather, they are associated with educational experiences both on tests such as the SAT and in schoolwork.”

However, I believe that this is not true. The numbers are fascinating to look through. While living during a time of intense college acceptance competition, every little thing matters. The SAT and/or ACT do matter. If we fail to get a high score on either of them, yet get good grades all throughout high school, we are still significantly disadvantaged. Colleges still fall back to SAT/ACT scores because they are “standardized.” Even if a college considers their application review process to be “holistic,” who would they accept…

1. A student with great grades in school, great involvement in extracurriculars, but a bad/no SAT/ACT score.

OR

2. A student with great grades in school, great involvement in extracurriculars, and a great SAT/ACT score

For students, we tend to believe the latter.

This issue needs to be solved. We need an education system that is fair, not advantaging any one demographic over another. But we still need a standardized way to measure academic achievement. We need a way to give every student - rich or poor, white/Asian or not - an equal opportunity to succeed. Students should no longer have to learn the tricks of the test, but instead, learn information beneficial to their future success. Students should no longer have to worry about not being able to take a test because of issues with money. This will take time, but we must start to work for a solution. A solution where every student is given the greatest chance to showcase their knowledge and hard work.

We need a way to give every student - rich or poor, white/Asian or not - an equal opportunity to succeed.
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