Garfield Senior High School

The inaccuracy of standardized testing

Standardized testing is used throughout the world as a means to assess the abilities and capabilities of students. Schools make students take several exams every year, get the average score of the tests, then tell people how they are doing relative to other students.

It’s a simple concept that allows students to know their educational standing among their peers and the nation. On paper, it sounds like a great concept that would properly assess the progress of a student, and it truly is, or at least it should be. This system would be good if it worked, but there are currently too many issues that come alongside the concept of standardized testing.

Some of the most obvious flaws in standardized testing come among the exams themselves. The tests don’t exactly evaluate everything you have learned in a year. Instead, like with mathematics, it usually sticks to a single portion of what is learned in a mathematical field. Often times, at least in my school, this math ends up being based around trigonometry.

The issue with this is that not every class teaches trigonometry. As a matter of fact, it is only briefly gone over in some Algebra 2 classes. Because of this, some teachers are forced to put a halt to whatever it is that they are teaching and instead teach what will be assessed in the standardized tests.

It doesn’t take much to see the flaws in this system. Not only does it mean that what is being tested on is usually not even what is typically taught in universal classrooms, but it also means that teachers have to stop their usual routine simply to satisfy quotas set by schools for funding.

While it isn’t a problem for schools to want more money to have more resources for students, doing it by forcing work upon students is not the way to go. Instead of focusing on what should be taught as normal, schools shift their attention toward scoring a certain amount in standardized tests. Because of this, the weight of standardized tests often weighs heavily in the minds of students, often leading to stress and even depression.

If it was an exam that came once in a while, it would be fine. However, experimenting in recent years has led to an abundance of standardized tests for students who are used as guinea pigs. Most recently, even I was part of an experiment involving a standardized test based on sciences.

Unfortunately for me, what was on the exam was something not covered in my classes, as it was an entirely different type of science. Because of this, it wouldn’t be beyond my imagination that I didn’t score what would have been ideal. But again, this was simply an “experiment,” so it held no weight against me.

Another flaw among these exams that derives from the stress and mental state of students constantly under stress comes the “breaking point.” There is only so much a student is able to take before they think  it’s enough and begin to stop caring about the standardized tests.

It’s even worse when the student knows that the exam won’t be counted against them in certain cases. Because of this, not only are standardized tests evoking negative emotions in their test-takers, but this also ends up leading to extremely inaccurate results.

Because some students begin to stop caring, the averages become skewed (not that they were accurate to begin with). However, despite all of these flaws, the exams still end up attaching a number to the participants. It puts a label of “who is smart” and “who isn’t” on the students, furthering the stress and insecurities among the teenage youth.

Standardized testing isn’t the equivalent of “the Devil’s test,” nor is it even really that bad. It’s usually what surrounds the tests that cause the problems, that being stress and fear of what side you will be associated with after the test (those who are average, below average, or above average) in a test that isn’t that accurate to begin with. As far as I can tell, the only way to fix part of the issue is to assign standardized tests not based on grade level, but rather based on the courses being taken.