Standardized Testing: Are We Just Another Number?

by Vrittee Sobti ‘25 and Sophie Schmidt ‘25

Source: Maya Edmonds

Published Apr. 3rd, 2022

According to a study in the Washington Post, “the average student in America’s big-city public schools takes some 112 mandatory standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and the end of 12th grade — an average of about eight a year.” With both the SAT and NJGPA happening recently, many students at MHS have thoughts of standardized tests on their brains. 

Many students dread standardized testing, and understandably so. Sitting at uncomfortable desks, clicking through the questions on school-issued computers or bubbling in the answers on a scantron is not a very enjoyable experience. 

Especially in recent times with many colleges not requiring SAT or ACT scores during the pandemic, standardized testing has sparked a new debate. Is it really necessary? 

A standardardized test is one that is administered and scored in a predetermined, “standard” way. For decades, they have been used for college admissions, school placements, and determining if a student can graduate. 

While they are widely disliked by students and parents, they can be useful. Since 1926, colleges have used the SAT to see how students measure against each other and used that information to determine whether or not a student is admitted. 

However, one thing that standardized tests excels at masking is the racism, classism, and sexism that play a part in scores.

“Students who have had more opportunities to study and learn tend to do better than ones who haven’t had access to these resources,” said Marisa Conners ‘22. Additionally, some students have access to tutors and courses while others do not, which put those that do at a greater advantage. There’s no way of gauging the full realm of a student’s knowledge given the lack of context on their socioeconomic situations.

The crux of standardized testing is the unmalleable format. Catherine Gonzalez ‘22 said, “There’s a high likelihood of cramming for a better score, flunking because of anxiety, and anything in-between.” There’s no variable that concedes to the impromptu bad day or a rough night’s sleep; it’s a ‘one-strike-and-you’re-out’ kind of deal. 

As a result, a whopping 78% of surveyed MHS students believe that standardized tests don’t accurately measure a student’s knowledge and instead measure how well they adapt to the style of the test. 

The mental health of students also takes a beating from standardized tests. 67% of students replied that they feel like standardized testing has taken over their lives, that test-taking is mentally draining, and that the tests take a hit on their confidence. Erin Ford ‘22 adds that “[standardized tests] only work to [diminish] a student’s mental health and make them feel unworthy of certain colleges or goals that they have.”

There’s an indefinite debate over the possibility of standardized tests being optional, but that surfaces another plethora of pros versus cons. While it might relieve stress on students and set a spotlight on different ways to measure knowledge, the prevailing argument against it is volunteer bias. There’s room for improvement, but until then, we’ll keep filling in those bubbles.

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