The Case for Standardized Tests

By Sydney Black

When asking the typical student their thoughts on Standardized Tests, you often receive answers along the lines of they are “ a waste of time” or “stressful.” For a while, I felt I was wasting time every spring spending days taking tests that are extremely formulaic. In the end, the results might not even paint an accurate picture of how one is doing academically. Perhaps one of the most pressing issues when it comes to Standardized Tests is not the tests themselves, but our compulsive obsession with them. These tests may lead to unwavering stress, but they provide an accurate metric, help underperforming groups perform, and lead to overall improvement in the educational system. 

Every year seems like a new cycle of Standardized Tests whether it be the SAT, ACT, or the New York State Tests associated with elementary and middle schools. Regardless of the way many students see this testing system, they provide an accurate metric for a constantly evolving demographic. The “No Child Left Behind” policy created a conversation where there might not otherwise be one. Standardized Tests help to identify underperforming populations, and help these groups improve. Because of this, achievement scores for African American, Hispanic, and low-income areas have significantly improved. Additionally, high school graduation rates have sky-rocketed.

Standardized Tests adjust the way we teach to be more specific in certain areas. This has both negative and positive repercussions. Junior Andrea Goldberg notes, “I think subject tests are a great way to focus on specific areas, while other tests that are more generalist don’t allow for the same depth of learning.” Certain tests such as the SAT are focused on the areas of reading, writing, and math, while subject specific tests are more in depth in subjects that would not be required by studying for the SAT. 

When many think of the SAT or ACT they view it as a defining number that will change the course of one’s academic career. This results in strenuous hours of studying and a loss in sleep. Kaela Newman, a Freshman, shared, “Although these tests help students practice for taking bigger, more substantial tests in the future, they may also be stressing students out for no reason.” Kaela offers a valid point; Standardized Tests prepare students filled with harder, more complicated tests. This is the reality American teenagers need to confront. Standardized Tests cause stress but that is okay and we need to learn to cope, because there will come a day where we will face more stress but be able to perform under. Are Standardized Tests a reflection of teenagers inability to form constructive coping mechanisms or a symbol for the American Education System’s systemic failure to promote a better future for all?

Most recently people have started to see a “holistic” admissions process as the solution to the testing controversy. People see this as a way to look at the whole applicant, rather than just certain aspects such as GPA.The issue with this approach is that it is not just the system that needs to change it is the mindset of the applicant.

Standardized Tests are an accurate metric that help underperforming groups improve and construct an accurate picture of how students across the country are performing. As a result, many high schools and colleges emphasize the importance of good scores on these tests. Stressed out students find themselves studying to the point of exhaustion The pressure of tests are an underlying problem in education, but the mindsets of students are perhaps the greater issue.