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How Standardized Testing is Letting Down our Students

Here is a solution
Kendall Dixon ’26

Standardized testing has long been the benchmark for college readiness and student excellence. The test was considered a way for lower-income students to be able to showcase their own talents without the robust amount of activities and programs that wealthy students could attain. 

While elite schools and studies have shown that a form of testing is beneficial to the college process, the racism and classism inherent in the program present the need for another form of testing that would give students a better chance at success.

Standardized testing does, in many ways, have beneficial qualities. A Spark Admissions website weighing the pros and cons of the SAT argues that by setting a standard, the SAT makes it easier to “evaluate and rank” students. 

And while a one-size-fits-all test often neglects the multifaceted nature of human intellect, there are upsides to setting a standard for all to follow and it streamlines the college process. 

Unfortunately, according to Spark, national exams are a “fact of life well beyond secondary school.” Anyone who wants to go into a wide array of specialized professions has to take a standardized test, so getting started early does give students an advantage.

However, the standardized test is often criticized for the test anxieties and phobias it can induce. Students cannot do their best work because they are so stressed or distracted. Furthermore, Spark says, “Wealthy families have the time and money for [test prep]… which essentially means that a good score can be purchased.”

The money-rich families can put in for their kids to get good scores is just inaccessible to lower-income families who have to rely on free or cheap, sub-par, resources. 

Along with the lack of robust resources for poorer students, the SAT perpetuates racist and xenophobic culture in society. Black and Latino people consistently get lower scores than white students, especially in the math sections of the test.

A Brookings study on race in relation to standardized test scores showed that, “Over half (59%) of white…test takers met the college readiness math benchmark, compared to less than a quarter of Black students and under a third of Hispanic…students.” 

This disparity is not coincidental and the SAT, specifically, often gives questions that test-takers of color are less likely to be able to answer. Students of color are also less likely to obtain robust test prep programs that wealthy white students can find. The racist and classist components of the SAT make it very difficult and create a stress-inducing experience for people of color, disadvantaging their college hopes disproportionately. 

However, even though countless studies have shown the sharp disadvantages of standardized testing, the “elite” colleges have started bringing them back. Ivy League colleges, such as Dartmouth and Yale, have justified bringing tests back by pointing to their own research that found that these tests are helpful to the admission chances of kids living in poverty.

And yet, these studies go against all the other research that has been done. Colleges have implemented standardized testing again to identify the individual success of students who may not otherwise be able to show their talents. 

 neaToday referenced a study done by Harvard University, which found that generally, the tests “reinforce inequality.” Elite colleges have begun bringing the tests back for individual success and an easier college process, but they neglect to consider the inequality it brings to all other people, who may not be proficient test takers but have other outstanding qualities. 

But while the elite schools have started bringing the standardized tests back, neaToday estimates over 80 percent of colleges will not require them in fall 2025, so there is no reason to lose hope in all American colleges, as many still cater to everyone.

There have also been numerous breakthroughs in finding other forms of testing that accommodate students compared to the SAT and ACT. Many studies have shown that more creative and experiential assessments may be more beneficial and effective. 

A new form of test called a “Performance Based Assessment” allows students to commit to a process instead of a test where there is only one right answer. The assessment can be any kind of project, and students, according to neaToday, can “develop a thorough analysis in an essay; conduct a laboratory investigation; curate a portfolio of student work,” et cetera. 

The same source goes on to say that with that assessment kids can “show much more of their knowledge over time, in a form they choose.” 

By switching to PBAs, schools will give more opportunities for people who are set up to be disadvantaged by standardized testing, while also providing an alternative that meets college standards. 

No matter what happens, the United States must re-examine the standardized testing available today and try to find new solutions to make the process easier on students.

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  • J

    Julia MaMay 13, 2024 at 12:55 pm

    I agree with part of the article, which is that standardized tests give a subset of poor students a chance to get into good colleges. It is true that standardized tests make students feel disappointed and miserable. I feel this deeply. Compared with the United States, China has more standardized tests, basically every week. This makes me feel stressed and let student think the meaning of study is nothing but getting into college. But there is a certain reason why this kind of exam exists. Standardized tests can evaluate everyone equally to the greatest extent. As the author said, standardized tests give some poor people the opportunity to change their destiny. It can only be said that the standardized test cannot accurately judge a person, but it is undoubtedly the most effective way to measure hundreds of millions of people now. But I don’t think standardized tests have anything to do with race.

  • L

    Leila WangMay 8, 2024 at 1:12 pm

    I agree with this article that standardized testing is very stressful and does not always showcase a student’s full potential. I even saw this through my sister when she was studying for the SAT she would stay up late and just read the prep books, she did this on top of work from school and because of this, she was under so much pressure to do good on all these things. All this pressure could have been avoided if the United States rethought standardized testing and maybe had more options. On the other hand, as it was said in this article, standardized testing can show a student’s potential for colleges if they are low-income and do not have the option of doing other things colleges look for. Overall standardized tests cause stressful times for students even just thinking of them, and for some people, their potential is just not shown through them because they might not be good under pressure, but if it is the only thing available for people to show colleges why them then it help tremendously.

  • W

    WillMay 8, 2024 at 7:49 am

    I agree with the perspective in this article. I think standardize test put a lot of stress onto their takers, and how the test unfairly boosts wealthier people and people of specific races. I already in my life have taken a lot of standardized tests. When I applied to AFS I had to take a standardize test which stressed me out a lot, but once it was done I was happy, and no longer stressed. As for standardized tests like the SATs I plan to take them when I am a in eleventh grade. I know they will stress me out, but I also know how important it is that I take the test which is why I will take it. I think the solution proposed in the article of PBAs is a good idea because I think the idea of a project instead of a test can be less stressful for people to take. 

  • J

    JonasMay 8, 2024 at 7:48 am

    I agree with this article. I have only had to take a few standardized tests but for all of them, I was very stressed. I think in general tests are pretty stressful for most students but standardized tests especially since they have much more weight with college admissions than a normal test you would take. I don’t think that tests in general are a good way of assessing someone’s knowledge or skill on a certain topic since if you are stressed or tired it is more difficult to get a good grade. There can be good to standardized tests though. It is easier for a college to asses a large group of people and know if someone has general knowledge about something. Overall, I don’t like standardized tests but they are probably here to stay so we have to get used to them.

  • E

    Eliot BramsonMay 8, 2024 at 7:38 am

    I agree with this article. Standardized tests are a tricky subject. They are a big part of life, but they are also, like you said, discriminatory in a way. If we want to reintroduce standardized testing in schools, we will need to work on our education system as a whole. As a country, I feel like our current education system is failing students, not preparing them properly for the complexities of the outside world. Schools in under served neighborhoods are also proving to be achieving less on standardized tests. This obviously gives an unfair advantage to people who are growing up in more well to do neighborhoods with school districts that higher professionals to work with students and prepare them for standardized tests.
    As for the stress and anxiety that come with test taking, that’s an unnecessary stresser to put in a young student’s life. Kids already have so many extra curriculars, grades, social problems, and pressure to deal with. Standardized testing doesn’t show how smart a person is, it just shows how well they can perform when asked.

  • J

    Jermaine BrockingtonMay 6, 2024 at 7:49 am

    I agree with this perspective. I think standardized testing doesn’t truly showcase how smart a student is. It can cause stress causing the student to focus less, making it harder for them to get a high score. There are some good things about standardized testing though. As the author said, it helps lower-class kids and minorities showcase their talents and how smart they are, giving them a higher chance to get into good schools. By leveling the playing field, it offers these students a fair opportunity to demonstrate their potential, thereby increasing their likelihood of gaining admission to esteemed educational institutions. Overall, there are some aspects that make standardized testing good for people and colleges, but those aspects can have negative effects along with them.

  • N

    Noah YMay 6, 2024 at 7:41 am

    I 100% agree with this article. I had to take a standardized test even in the semi-post covid era where many colleges were still test optional. It was explained to me at the time that though many of the colleges were test optional what was really meant was test preferred. While I scored above average on my SAT it was only due to a lot of studying and tutoring that thankfully my family could afford. None of the college process is cheap, especially the SATs and the prep leading up to them. When I was studying my tutor told me something about the SATs that I share with anyone preparing for them. “The only thing the SAT is good at measuring is how good you are at taking the SAT” now that seemed to be off to me. Should the SAT not represent how well a student functions in studying for a test, your knowledge on important subjects, and how you deal with pressure. In truth it does none of those things. The SAT is out dated, and racist as a test, there are inherent flaws with it that need to be addressed if it is going to continue.

  • A

    AlejandroMay 6, 2024 at 7:41 am

    While I do agree with the perspective of the article that standardized testing is letting our future down and not setting us up for success, I do to an extent disagree with the perspective that the test is upholding a racist background while disregarding income. I do agree that standardized testing does not take into account each student’s strengths and weaknesses, therefore it is not a reliable source to measure one’s intelligence. I feel as though this article does state that well with a solution to alternative options. However, I don’t agree with the statement that the testing is upholding racism. I think that the test demonstrates the problems with the education system and fundings we give to less wealthy areas, but I do not feel like that is because of the test, more a problem with our education system. It doesn’t feel right to blame the test, when there are the other factors to play into why our students aren’t succeeding. I plan on taking a standardized test for an AP, but I also elected to forgo one as it wasn’t in my best interest. The problem is some students don’t have that option, because of the education system.

  • A

    alyMay 6, 2024 at 7:36 am

    I can not agree more with the statement of the article about how standardized testing is letting down our students. As someone with a disability, It is extremely difficult to be put under the pressure of doing incredibly on standardized tests when you can barely read the words. I was also denied extra time on the test for no known reason to anyone which was really hard. It is also extremely elitist. All of my friends who do well on the test have coaches or have a lot of time which is not fair to the people who do not have the luxury of the access to the time or coaching. I agree with the solution of using PBA’s because it can really help students with less have the most potential with their tests because it is not based on coaching, time, or any other type of unfair and elitist rich get richer schemes. 

  • L

    LukasMay 6, 2024 at 7:29 am

    This article is something that I think almost all students already think and can agree on, but it is something I don’t think is likely to change anytime soon. These “elite” colleges that you mentioned are very ignorant to be honest and think the way they have done things for their history are the only way to do them. They aren’t at all innovative and not accepting of change, which is why they won’t adapt to a newer practice that may have benefits compared to the standardized testing they have grown so used to. I know that many schools have adopted to test optional and no testing at all, but as long as the Ivy School “elites” never adopt than the negative ramifications that you mentioned in the article will exist, because those are the schools that everyone looks to as the most powerful and the best of the best, even though I feel like their has been more negativity coming out of these schools compared to others.

  • J

    James BMay 6, 2024 at 7:29 am

    I agree I feel as though standardized testing is bad for students. It is giving us a false perception of our own knowledge and can be very misleading for actual important tests that are a better representation of our knowledge. I agree with what Nelson said I feel like when he brought up the fact that 80% of colleges do not even care for our tests scores is a good point and and ahah moment in regards to why we should just throw them out. Like if a college is really willing to reject someone over one tests score of things that they learned 3-4 years ago then what’s the point. Like do they want us for us now or us when we knew a lot less. It doesn’t make sense in the grand scheme of things. They do nothing but leave people stressed over something that won’t matter the moment after they take it