Standardized testing is dreaded amongst most high school students and even college students. We spend months studying for these tests and then spend another few hours actually taking the test. We then wait for weeks for our scores and those stupid scores determine our future. If you do well – CONGRATULATIONS! You can attend a top college or graduate school program. If not- well then your options are retaking it and coughing up another hundred bucks or attending a lesser well-known school. I personally believe the importance placed on these exams is unfair.
Colleges rely upon these scores during the admissions process among other things such as high school GPA, curriculum, recommendation letters, essay, and extra curricular activities. However, the weight of influence the standardized tests provides for college acceptance is unfair to students. In order to help students master taking the test, people pay for coaching or tutoring, which can cost up to a thousand dollars. Test prep companies claim the exam’s format is predictable and repetitive. By studying a set of “specific reasoning skills” such as, memorizing directions, answering easy questions first, and drilling students with practice quizzes, it is easy to drastically raise scores. However, not everyone can afford this costly help. What about those students are come from lower income areas but deserve to attend a top school? Just because their parents or guardians could not afford to hire them a private tutor and they studied test-taking techniques by themselves – should they really be punished?
Universities claim that standardized testing helps them sort through applications quickly. Large universities do not have the time to read each essay and look through all their extra curricular activities for each individual application. However, Christina Perez, a reform advocate for FairTest, points out that these universities do not know who had the advantage of being trained and who has not, so they could not fairly compare two applicants’ scores. Standardized tests force all students to test under similar conditions, and accommodate only one style of test taking. For students who do not perform well on timed, multiple-choice exams their scores may not portray what they are capable of doing.
Sadly, the pressure of standardized testing has pushed down into younger generations. Middle school and elementary students are now under the pressure to score well on standardized tests. In Michigan, third and fourth grade students are forced to sit through days of MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) testing. Now the schools are being punished for their young students for not scoring well. For years a New Hampshire school flourished on the state examinations, but now, the No Child Left Behind Act, which calls for 100% proficiency on examinations by 2014, deemed the New Hampshire school failing.
Their school has their teachers teach individually planned lessons rather than out of the textbook, so many students struggled since the test was catered to the test book. Schools are being punished for not teaching to the test now. Also, the school was deemed failing because a handful of their special education students were not able to score high enough on the exam. Originally the school mainstreamed the special education students with a special education teacher working with them individually, but now in order to appease the No Child Left Behind law, they need to be taken from the classroom and have individualized instruction. As an Elementary Ed major, I personally believe keeping these students separate hurts them socially. They receive the impression that they are not smart enough to be with the rest of the class.
Standardized testing doesn’t just hurt students from enrolling in a good school, but it affects young elementary students and their schools. They are forced to receive an education that is geared towards the standardized tests and they aren’t able to explore things outside of their textbooks. I understand the importance of making sure students are receiving a good education and that schools are not falling behind. However, these laws are impeding children’s’ education. What do you think? Are standardized tests more harmful than helpful? If so, how can we modify these exams?