Opinion: Schools need to drop standardized testing

The practice of standardized testing is robbing students of self esteem and a good education

A majority of prospective college students today have had to take a standardized test, such as the SAT or ACT in order to get into college. It is seen as a rite of passage for a student in their junior year of high school to take one of these exams as a way to measure their intelligence and determine their future. 

With the pandemic, many universities have opted out of requiring prospective students to take these exams and submit their scores. At ASU, only Barrett, the Honors College required score submission, but now they have also put the requirement on hold. Submitting ACT and SAT is optional for admission to ASU. Honestly, I hope that it stays this way.

The use of standardized testing became commonplace in 2002 after President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated annual testing across the nation. After Bush enacted the policy, average test scores declined even further, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics analyzed by Brittanica. These exams have been blamed as part of the reason why the U.S.’s rankings in math, science and reading slipped drastically between 2000 and 2015.

Because of these exams, many teachers feel that they need to teach students how to take the SAT, rather than teaching them in a way that they learn best. Because of this, the curriculum is becoming more monotonous and less creative and engaging to students who do not learn in the way that the College Board requires them to learn. 

Standardized testing is known to be discriminatory against students of certain backgrounds.

According to Bradley Bostick, a professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher's College, some of the questions on these tests can include experiences that may not be familiar to students who are from low socioeconomic backgrounds. For example, in the 1980s, the SAT included a question where the correct answer included the word "regatta," a type of sailboat. Sailing is an activity associated with the upper class, and many may have never heard of the word, according to the LA Times.

Students who are from lower-class backgrounds don't have the same resources. They may not have wealthy parents who can send them to SAT prep courses or hire a private tutor for them. Some students cannot even afford to take the exam multiple times, while other students may have the funds. 

They do not necessarily measure how intelligent a student is; they measure how well they can take a test. 

The exam also does not care if a student has test-taking anxiety. Some students with mental health conditions or learning disabilities may still be highly intelligent. However, they may not be in the right headspace when taking this exam, especially if they were previously told that this exam was difficult or that they are not smart enough.

This exam can wreak havoc on a student's confidence. Students see their SAT or ACT score and feel that the number represents their self worth and their overall intelligence. For example, even though I did quite well in high school and graduated on the honor roll, I have test-taking anxiety and a disability, which did not translate well on my SAT and ACT scores. I was disappointed by my scores and even though I am now a successful college student, it still affects my self-esteem. While these exams do have accommodations for students with disabilities, lower-income students are less likely to have access to the accommodations. 

The exam has also been known to hold biases against girls, which Bostick said is his "biggest problem."

He said that girls tend to score about 40% lower on the math portion of the exam. This gap does not align with how well female students fare in actual math courses, as they tend to get higher grades than male students in the classroom.

Reasons that female students tend to do worse on exams like the SAT include the fact that girls are often told that they are not as good at math. Girls also tend to be better course takers, while boys tend to be better test-takers. Girls are more likely to overanalyze a closed-ended question and do better on open-ended questions, which the SAT does not provide. 

Unsurprisingly, these exams also hold a racial bias. Much of this bias is tied to classism. Even though they are participating in these exams more, Black and Latinx students are still seeing a gap between their scores and the scores of their white counterparts. Additionally, the scores do not reflect the decreasing performance gap between Black and white high school students. As mentioned earlier, the questions are written with a white, middle-class student in mind, so students who do not have the same experiences will do worse.

Are GPAs more likely to predict a student's college performance than standardized testing scores? Some high performing countries, such as Finland, don't use standardized testing at all. 

"It's less to do with this momentary snapshot in time of how you're doing on this one Saturday," Bostick said. "It's a poor way to assess someone's ability to go to college and be successful."

Without standardized testing being a requirement this year, it has become clear that these tests are unneeded for college admission. They are archaic and prejudiced, and it is time that we retire them. 


Reach the columnist at htenore@asu.edu or follow @haleyyhmt on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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