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The Problems With Standardized Testing

If you are reading this, chances are you have taken upward of 20 standardized tests in your life. Starting as early as elementary school, students are required by the government to take various state tests. The purpose of these tests is to evaluate and rate school districts, individual schools, and educators. While this intention seems innocent enough, the effect that standardized tests have on both students and educators is atrocious. 

One of the main problems that we see is immense pressure on students to score highly on these tests. This causes students to base their self-worth on grades, which is incredibly harmful to their self-confidence and is a direct cause of stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety impact how students function in their everyday lives and are much more serious ailments than people tend to recognize. Standardized tests make it seem as though the students who excel at them are the most worthy of good grades and are the most ‘smart’. However, these tests fail to recognize the full span of skills and potential that different kinds of students have. The tests have a very narrow focus, so that if you are good at a particular area, then you do very well on the tests. If science or math or reading comprehension are not your specialty, then you are pretty much screwed.  What kind of lesson does this teach children? It feeds into a system that marginalizes people based on one aspect of their person. 

Standardized tests do not make teaching easy for educators. Educators have pretty much lost control over their classrooms because instruction is geared towards the tests. Since school district ratings are directly based on state test scores in many circumstances, teachers have pressure as well to have a high scoring class. Unfortunately, teachers are also rated based on how their students do on standardized tests. This starts in elementary school and expands all the way until high school, and even college. Teachers are losing their creativity and free will when creating curriculum and activities because they are being forced to focus on testing. This can cause teachers to be less engaged in what they are doing, and also takes their attention away from the individual and unique needs of the students. Education should be a growth process that allows all different kinds of students to flourish and demonstrate their abilities.

 

There is another claim that standardized tests are a way for all students from all schools to be placed on a level playing field. However, this cannot be more false. This is a fallacy that the institutions want us to believe-it’s a lame attempt at rationalization. Take the SAT for example. There is one student who enrolls in an SAT prep course. This prep course gives the students practice tests, tricks for test taking, vocabulary flash cards, and other resources. This student also has a private tutor that cost $100 per hour. This student takes the SAT 3 times to achieve their ideal score. Compare this student to another student who can’t even afford an SAT prep book and can only afford to take the SAT one time. Are these two students on the same playing field? I don’t think these students are even playing the same game. This shows how vastly unfair the standardized testing system is and how it just perpetuates inequality in education.

Education has so much potential to help students explore different possibilities and find their passions. It has the potential to give students social skills, leadership skills, collaboration skills, problem solving skills, and critical thinking skills. However, what we see is oppression. The problem is that the education system is so intertwined in politics and society that it’s very difficult to change without a social revolution. The first step in making any major social change is awareness. I hope this article causes you to reflect on your time in school and to consider how you have been privileged or disadvantaged based on things out of your control. Hopefully one day we can see an education system that promotes equality, diversity, creativity, and critical thinking instead of the chaos that we experience today.

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