Standardized Testing’s Contradictions

Students don't seem to like the ACT and SAT, but alternatives are limited in a test-centric culture.

Nate Husen, Reporter

If you need to graduate from high school, take a test first. If you need college credits, take a test and you might get some. If you want to know which Golden Girl you are, take a test for it.

Between the ACT, SAT, end-of-year state testing, Buzzfeed quizzes and innumerable other assessments, it’s clear that the American mind is judged by tests.

While standardized tests have been around since the 1920s, the educational emphasis toward such exams took place in the 1960s, when the U.S. government enacted policies designed make schools produce a more efficient workforce. More education makes smarter workers, but it’s important to note how they were being educated would shape them.

The entirety of the public school system is designed around training students to memorize and regurgitate information because that makes a better assembly line worker. With the new, standardized “no-student-left-behind” ideology, this teaching philosophy is now the core of every classroom, for better or worse.

At the front lines of education are students, the guinea pigs of new textbooks, tests and teachers. Testing is a divisive issue amongst students, many of whom – including those who would serve to benefit from them – despise tests like the ACT and SAT, but there are a few who tolerate (or in some cases actively support) them.

Junior Allie Williams, who’s against standardized testing, says the notion that testing as a measure of one’s intelligence is “wack.” Williams says testing “just shows if you know how to play the game of testing.”

Even those who know how to play the game of standardized testing note its flaws. Junior Aidan Sudler, who has scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT, says he opposes the system overall.

Test prep proprietors, such as Chad Cargill, teach courses that dissect each section of the test to help students assess the questions because the ACT, for instance, is a different experience than most tests students take.

Academic All-State winner Madi Rice, who scored a 34 on the ACT, recommends that testers don’t look at it as a test at all, but as a “game or puzzle” to decrease stress and “stay competitive.”

Junior Hunter Hogner, a standardized testing proponent, brings up that not many assessments do better in measuring college readiness than testing.

“The people against testing have solid points, but don’t present many definitive alternatives,” Hogner says.

Opponents of testing don’t have many concrete options, or at least none that wouldn’t clash with Bixby’s test-centric dynamics. Curricula would change and the end-of-instruction tests that students are used to would be replaced.

However, testing can be improved to avoid throwing it out entirely in place of something else. Offering different times for testing, varying the types of questions in each section, providing options for those who work better in isolation, longer breaks, or allowing limited music selection to help students focus could all help make testing more accessible.

Going forward, tests may remain fixtures of public school life, or they may be phased out in favor of more dynamic options. Colleges like Brandeis University and Colby College don’t require the SAT or ACT to be taken at all or reported. Ultimately the choice rests in the hands of the high schoolers of today, who are poised to take the reins of leadership in the coming decades.