Is Standardized Testing a Reliable Way to Assess Student Knowledge?

Student Life

For years, the systematic tests have favored wealthy white and Asian-American scholars, implying it does not support minorities such as black people and Hispanics. Moreover, the tests can be effortlessly gamed by students who come from affluent backgrounds that spend thousands of dollars on personal coaching and unlimited access to test prep. So, like all aspects of life, it’s an archaic notion that, for some, shouldn’t be repealed completely but certainly refined in most of its facets.

Let’s start from the foundation: NEA explains that, as the U.S. absorbed hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Europe beginning in the 19th century, the day’s prominent civil scientists (several of them being white Anglo-Saxon Protestants) were worried by the infiltration of non-whites into the nation’s public schools. The schooling system Carl Brigham insisted was in deterioration and "will proceed at an accelerating rate as the racial mixture becomes more and more extensive." Brigham had facilitated the development of aptitude tests for the U.S. Army during World War I and – commissioned by the College Board - was influential in formulating the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). He and other civil scientists deemed the SAT a modern psychological examination and a complement to college board exams.

During World War I, standardized tests assisted in placing 1.5 million combatants in units segregated by class and test scores. The tests were scientific, but they remained deeply discriminatory, according to experimenters and media announcements. In 1917, Terman and a committee of colleagues were enrolled by the American Psychological Association to assist the Army in formulating group intelligence tests and a group intelligence hierarchy. Army testing during World War I provoked the most abrupt development of the school testing trend.

By 1918, more than 100 standardized tests were evolved by various experimenters to assess accomplishment in the primary, elementary, and secondary school topics. Then, in 1925, The US Bureau of Education reported that intelligence and attainment tests were increasingly utilized to categorize students at all degrees. By 1930, multiple-choice examinations were positively embedded in U.S. schools. This quick spread of the SATs prompted discussions and controversies along two lines. Some analysts glimpsed the multiple-choice layout as promising memorization and guessing, while some assessed the capacity of the questions and concluded to absorb it all faultlessly that the tests were racist.

The NEA clarified that by the 1950s and 1960s, top U.S. colleges were talent-searching for the “brainy kids,” excluding any ethnicity prejudice, stated Jerome Karabel in “The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.”

This declaration among institutes to recognize the sharpest students as evaluated by test scores “did not bode adequately for students from populations of color, who were—as an outcome of extensive bias in testing—disproportionately failing state or local high school graduation exams,” according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest).

According to the Fair Test, on average, students of color score lower on college admissions tests. Thus, many eligible teenagers have withheld entrance or admission to “merit” scholarships when, in reality, they are nothing but biased. This contributes to the tremendous racial gap in university registrations and culmination. NEA illustrates, “High-stakes testing also causes additional damage to some students who are categorized as English language learners (ELLs). The tests are often inaccurate for ELLs, according to FairTest, leading to misplacement or retention. ELLs are, alongside students with disabilities, those least likely to pass graduation tests.”

African-Americans, particularly males, are displaced in special education, repeatedly based on examination findings. In effect, high-stakes testing perpetuates racial imbalance through the personal and psychological capability of the tests over the test takers.

Now, as of 2020, according to the College Board, which allocates the SAT, 55 percent of Asian-American test-takers and 45 percent of white test-takers achieved a 1200 or higher on the SAT in 2019. For Hispanic and black students, those numbers were on an average of 12 and 9 percent.

Should the test be abolished forever?

In an objective field, this test should have an equalized proportion for holistically reviewing a student in the college admissions cycle. The personal statement, the additional essay, the letters of recommendation, the extracurriculars, the "passion projects" should all be surveyed on an even playing field. And most colleges perform under this rule already, but not enough.

See, no student learns, works, nor succeeds the same. Haven’t you ever asked yourself the danger of sitting 20 + students in one room, teaching them subjects in the same way, and expecting them to digest them all faultlessly? This is seen as a normalized method of teaching. But I see it as a normalized method taking creativity out of the equation.

Some students learn visually, others socially, the rest verbally. It's time we realized the genuine concern. Some students learn through memorization for tests, others through practical experiences such as hands-on opportunities, and the rest might be through passion projects. These endeavors should be taken into consideration when it comes to the college application process. These projects show everything an SAT, ACT, or GPA will never show: a student’s fascination. And that excitement, which at times can be hidden or unearthed by the institution the student might be attending at the time, will make that person the next CEO, the next president, and the next entertainer.

Devotions are what individualizes us as human beings yet entices us together in the most promising way possible. The Earth, like the college application process, is a vast puzzle. It has a common ground, and every person, each with their specific curiosities, uses their fascinations to contribute a piece to the puzzle that embellishes society. Nonetheless, at the same time, some students tend to excel more in regions such as standardized testing, which is why the tests should be refined in a particular way that allows each student to excel in their own manner and not rescind a concept that might work for some but not all. In the same way, writing could be a passion project of mine; someone’s way of comfortably showcasing their knowledge could be through the ACT or SAT.

But, as this article asks, is the SAT a secure, reliable way to assess student knowledge? No. Education should never be a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter or snapback. Education is subjective, individualized, and personal. No individual is the same; no brain is identical. We must treat education with personalization, because genuine education pushes every one of our specific needs and turns them into feasible dreams. A student and their fascinations are worth more than a 3 or 2 digit score. They all have dreams, and they all should be pursued. Most colleges have already adopted test-optional policies, which can perhaps induce more competitiveness among the application pool. Yet, it simultaneously helps other students in the process, knowing that something they may not have had the resources to tackle, such as the SAT or ACT, will not harm them in the admission process.

The only way we’ll stick true to this theory, is that we humanize the admission process, and remember a test like the SAT is not reliable to measure intelligence for college entry, just a tool to measure the dedication put into different classes. Implement more interviews, give credit to the student for their self-induced extracurricular activities, and never underestimate where fascinations can bring a student.

Sources:

1. https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/racist-beginnings-standardized-testing

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Marta Fernández
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Marta Fernández is a high school senior currently residing in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a young teenager, she has aspired to become an activist. Her ambition is what individualizes her as a person.