By James Jeffery
A huge aspect of our education is testing. But why is testing, especially standardized, relevant to schooling, and how did it become so? The age-old principle behind tests is that testing reveals to the teacher how well the student understands a concept. This is a good and useful strategy, allowing education to be student-based. But in our world today, testing seems to be just the opposite.
Colleges accept students partly based on their SAT or ACT scores. Every year, each 4th-8th grade student in the majority of the country takes the SBAC, or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. We are also required to take smaller standardized tests such as the the IAB and the SRI. This is what we’ve done for our entire school career, so we have never questioned the real reason why these tests are required. Why would we? Tests are just a fact of life. But children in ages past and in countries overseas can get a perfectly fine education without filling out a single Scantron sheet. Why can’t we?
To answer this question, I’m going to delve a little bit into the history of standardized testing. The very first standardized test was the College Entrance Examination Board, which was later renamed the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, which was first administered in the 1920’s. Harmless enough, right? The SAT measured the achievements of an individual, not too different from the oral exams of the past. In the 1960s, the idea of a school’s ability to produce a workforce suited to propel the United States forward as a world superpower, an idea which largely came from the Cold War.
Therefore, the government started pushing for tests designed to measure not the achievement of an individual student but an entire school. This, I believe, is where the relevance of testing to education began to waver.
Each student learns differently, each of us is from a different household, a different family, maybe a different country entirely. Standardized tests are merciless in the sense that they have no regard for the pace and method in which each student learns. Some of us just aren’t good at taking tests in general.
You could be a genius, with an IQ off the charts, and you could still score low on many of the standardized tests that we are required by the government to take. A score on one of these tests is not an accurate measurement of the intellectual ability of a student. A score on a standardized test is a measure of how well the learning style of any student is equal to the learning style of a board of faceless test writers.
While tests are necessary components of education, standardized tests like the SBAC should not be used to determine the educational life of a student, or anything else but a simple grade.
If schools truly wish to measure the worth of a student, they should take into consideration all of their achievements, from the football field to the drama club stage to the band room.