Should Colleges Require Standardized Testing After Coronavirus?

May 21, 2020

     Recently there is a debate as to whether or not to require standardized test scores for the class that graduates high school in 2021 due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Their education plan has been significantly interrupted and all things considered, students will not be receiving the same level of education that they were receiving while at school physically. Because the students did not receive the same education, it seems unreasonable that they would be held to the same standard. 

     Even without Covid-19, the time has come for the testing system to be reevaluated due to many factors beyond the students control that could influence their score such as socioeconomic background, disabilities, and the level and quality of education they received.

     Over the past several decades, standardized tests like the SAT and ACT have been a largely influential factor in college acceptance. Many schools have a SAT and ACT range for what they will accept, regardless of other statistics the prospective student has. In recent years standardized testing has come into question as to whether or not they can accurately quantify intelligence. As every school has a different curriculum, one could argue that standardized tests measure the quality of education the child received as opposed to their actual intelligence level. A number of other factors can play into SAT and ACT scores other than the quality of education, such as a students socioeconomic background.

History of Standardized Tests

     The earliest known standardized tests were administered to government officials in 7th century China. Testing was widespread by the 1800s and was adopted by the Western World during the Industrial Revolution in an attempt to return school age farm hands and factory workers to the classroom. The tests were a means to efficiently test students and place them in appropriate grades. Concerns and hesitations were expressed about testing from as early as 1908 saying, “It is a very great and more serious evil to sacrifice systematic instruction and a comprehensive view of the subject for the scrappy and unrelated knowledge gained by students who are persistently drilled in the mere answering of questions issued by the Education Department or other governing bodies.” Essentially meaning, are we doing more harm or good drilling students to learn random facts just so they can take a test for the government?

      By the mid-1900s standardized tests were widespread throughout the United States and used in all different levels of education. In the 1980s there was pressure for an educational reform due to the fact  that standards were falling to an all time low, which led to even more testing then there was originally. In 2002, the government started mandating yearly reading and math tests and in 2010 the government offered additional funding to the schools with the highest test scores. Even with these adjustments, many schools still struggled to meet the standards that the government requires.

Effectiveness of Standardized Testing

     There are many factors that can impact a student’s test score negatively, including stress, lack of language skills, and lack of special needs accommodations. Additionally, standardized tests do not test every field of education, making them all the more inaccurate. Another factor as to why standardized tests don’t accurately measure intelligence is that leading up to standardized tests, teachers overwhelm their students with information to study that will appear on the test. Students typically end up binge studying, and not retaining most of the information. If a student were given a standardized test one week after binge studying for one night, their scores would be significantly lower as they did not retain what they learned. Furthermore, most students understand that they can rarely apply knowledge they learned for the test to real life scenarios, making them even less eager to learn the information. 

     Another factor is stress, especially stress from testing. Students understand that their score on a test could make-or break their education for the next year. They could lose their spot in an honors class or out of school program. The tests also cannot represent any one whose first language is not English, students with special needs, some who cannot comprehend the same information regardless of any additional time they may receive, and and anyone who excels in things like art, music, languages, and any other skill that is not present on standardized tests. Not all students excel in the same subject. Every student is unique, and a standard test cannot measure the whole of a student’s abilities. A standardized test made for a standard student cannot accurately determine the intelligence and performance of an individual.

College Acceptance and Standardized Testing

     For many colleges standardized test scores are a largely influential factor in a potential student acceptance or rejection from a school. This is a potential issue for many reasons, one being that test scores are highly correlated to family income. If a student comes from a family making over $200,000, the student has a one in five chance of scoring a 1,400 or above on the SAT, but if the student comes from a family making under $20,000, a one in 50 chance. When the SAT was first put in place, it was to expand the accessibility of elite colleges throughout the country, instead of just to private boarding schools on the east coast. It turned into a landmark part of admissions everywhere. 

     Many of the factors above are what have caused schools to reconsider their admissions process and their reliance on standardized test scores. Many prestigious  schools, like the University of Chicago no longer require the SAT or ACT to be accepted. Hopefully more colleges will follow suit in the attempt to make higher learning more about the whole range of a student’s intelligence, rather than memorization.  

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