Standardized Testing: Do we need it?

A new light is shining in the world of students after many schools got rid of standardized tests in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.

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During the 2020 school year, students were required to change their ways and learn from home on their laptops. This caused a great amount of stress from students struggling to keep up with the curriculum. In light of this struggle, many states canceled end-of-year exams and standardized testing. Even with the stress of the year, many students were able to graduate and get into the universities of their choice. 

This caused the following question to arise: Are standardized tests a good indication of success?

Standardized tests were used during World War I to segregate soldiers on the basis of race. They have also been used, in the past, as a way for African Americans to gain voting rights. These tests were often unfair and rigged. The history of the standardized test is racist and it still is today. 

Based on how students do on a test, they are ranked into percentiles. Stereotypes often take the better of people when looking at percentiles. Someone in the 30th percentile is often assumed to be a non-white student with a lower socioeconomic status. These types of assumptions and stereotypes are used to limit these students from attending certain colleges and pursuing certain careers.

In addition to the tests being racist, they are also classist and they create a hierarchy among students. A student who is in the 90th percentile and another in the 30th percentile might have the same level of intelligence. The student who is in the 30th percentile would then forever be treated at if they were “stupid” or “uneducated” and the student in the 90th would be “gifted” and “intelligent.” Standardized testing separates and divides students and creates a sort of student hierarchy where “smarter” students are favoured but are more susceptible to mental illness later in life.

Standardized tests create a stressful environment that can reduce performance. Students, many of which do not thrive under pressure, don’t perform as well as they wish, allowing for self doubt and a feeling of failure. Standardized tests for this reason do not predict or demonstrate future success or intelligence level. According to a Chicago study, GPAs are a stronger indicator of future and college success than testing by 500%. Students, who begin testing around grade 3, live their academic careers preparing for tests. Pushing students to succumb to the extreme stress of standardized testing when their GPAs indicate success seems like a pointless endeavour. GPAs demonstrate the skills and attributes required for a successful college student whereas standardized testing teaches students to be good test takers, not actually helping students retain material. 

Following the Pandemic, many states pushed to end required standardized testing but the Biden Administration said that it’s here to stay. Some states, such as California, don’t have end of grade testing. While there still is standardized testing, it’s not as harsh as it is in other states. For students at Athens Drive, standardized testing is still very much the reality. Studying for weeks to take a three hour test can be incredibly stressful, which is why many students like the idea of removing standardized tests.