Standardized Testing is Broken

Enough with these inaccurate and anxiety-provoking markers of intelligence

Standardized Testing is Broken

Ava Keim, Staff Writer

All students can learn and succeed, but not on the same day, or in the same way. Standardized testing is an outdated and unfair way to measure student success that often leads to undue anxiety. 

Standardized tests have become a more popular way of measuring important outcomes such as graduation and school funding, however, such high-stakes testing can place undue anxiety on students and affect their performance. According to the American Institute For Learning and Human Development, standardized tests define students as winners and losers, those who perform well and those who do not perform as well. Students are aware of this and feel that pressure before, during and after taking the test. 

As I started my junior year of high school, I became very aware that my year would be spent hyper-focused on getting the ACT score I thought I deserved. After my first go at the test, I came out of it shaking, knowing that I had just sat there overwhelmed while I spaced off and thought about anything and everything but the questions being asked. The time running out, along with the pressure to do well for my future, inhibited my skills greatly. I then proceeded to take the test four more times with the help of two different one-on-one tutoring programs that were supposed to guarantee me the score I wanted. 

That was not the case. The pressure that I felt to do well on the ACT escalated my anxiety to the point that my parents decided to take me to a psychologist. We wanted to know why this certain test consumed my thoughts and life so much. 

I have come to understand that the real reason I wasn’t able to achieve the high score of my standards was because standardized testing fails to account for students who learn and demonstrate academic proficiency in different ways. 

“Sometimes the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine in standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds,” educational research professor Diane Ravitch at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development said. 

The problem is, standardized tests aren’t an accurate measure of the quality of a student’s education, or even of a student’s intellect. Aspects of an application such as high school GPA are the main determinant of how well a student does at a university – not ACT or SAT scores. And the hard work many students put into the high grades they obtain are not at all shown in a timed test. 

What standardized tests do measure is how well a student can sit and take a test. They measure how well students can learn the tricks to beat the system. They place entire futures on one three to four-hour block of time.

And that is why I was never able to truly succeed while taking the ACT. Even if I could get the correct answer, I wasn’t fast enough to complete the questions asked in the amount of time allotted.

So maybe it’s time to just do away with standardized tests. The education system has failed to take into consideration that there are other alternatives to standardized testing. 

Portfolio-based assessments are the most promising forms of assessment. It is the idea that the “assessment” rests on records kept by the teacher and on collections of the student’s work, called the “student portfolio.” During the school year, teachers and students gather work which shows student progress and achievement in various subjects.

Other types of possible assessments include experiments illustrating understanding of a scientific concept, group work that addresses complex problems and requires discussion and presentation, or essays that include analysis of a topic. These require students to produce work that demonstrates high-level thinking and real-world applications.

Standardized testing negatively affects adolescents’ mental health for countless reasons. So it is time for the education system to listen to the children and find an alternative solution to this increasingly talked about issue. 

Have you ever heard a child say, “The perfect way for me to demonstrate what I’ve learned in school is a standardized test?” The answer is no.