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Linn-Mar Life

Standardized Testing Problematic Measure of Success

Test Prep Inequitable As Well

Kit Iyer, Contributing Reporter

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We all know the dreaded feeling of being handed one of those horrific bubble sheets and a packet of useless multiple choice questions that are in no way effective in measuring one’s knowledge of a particular subject. Rather, they measure one’s ability to narrow four or five possible answers down to one and pray that it’s the right choice. We all know the feeling of holding a skinny number two pencil in our hands and painstakingly filling in each bubble while flakes of graphite get everywhere. Worst of all, we all know the feeling of hearing “You have 10 minutes left to finish the test,” but you’re still on question 22 of 75. That almost sums up any and every experience students have probably had while taking a standardized test.

Standardized tests have become the bane of students’ existence and one of the biggest sources of stress. From tests like the ACT and SAT to AP exams or even to just regular final exams for core classes, they all focus on one primary goal; measuring whether or not students are learning the material and meeting the Common Core standards. This is done by using unbiased methods of testing like true or false, short answer, or (and possibly the worst of them all) multiple choice questions. By using Scan Tron tests, (also known as the godawful bubble sheets), computers can calculate a student’s score to eliminate almost all bias in a test. This is seen as a successful technique when conducting large scale tests like the ACT or SAT, possibly the most unpleasant tests of them all.

Specifically focusing on these two tests, they are possibly the most ineffectual way to measure a student’s academic ability and achievements. The ACT and SAT are mainly used as a way for colleges to see how well a student performs academically. However, a simple two digit or four digit number score means absolutely nothing and has little to no correlation to a student’s work ethic, ability to learn, and knowledge of general core subjects. Standardized testing is a bad representation of a student’s academic ability, but with a large population of students in America, colleges don’t have a better way of assessing students and need a way to group them in order to know which students are eligible for their school and which are not.

With that being said, the real problem lies in the test prep. Test prep for the ACT or SAT must be done outside of school and is not taught in regular classes. Because higher scores look better on college applications, students spend hours staring at practice tests, going through the hours of mind numbing questions about topics that have no relation to real world matters or sometimes no relation to school subjects. Because studying for the ACT or SAT becomes very difficult, many students invest a lot of money in test prep programs in order to better their scores.

But in the end, this kind of defeats the point right? If the purpose is to test a student’s academic ability, shouldn’t they be taught these things in school? This also becomes a problem for students who are capable of reaching the same achievements as the student sitting next to them, but can’t afford all these different prep programs. To fix this problem, ACT prep and possibly even SAT prep should be implemented in schools.

Let’s take a look at these different programs. The actual ACT offers online test prep that consists of practice tests and other activities personalized for students. This program lasts anywhere from three to six months and costs anywhere from $30 to $600. Another program for the ACT by Peterson’s Test Prep offers similar study options. The length of this program ranges from one month to a year and half and costs $47-$497. If you’re trying to study for the SAT, be prepared to lose even more money. The Kaplan SAT prep program offers eight classes for a number of weeks that vary depending on the program. This costs anywhere from $899 to $1,299. Essentially, these different programs are making millions off ACT and SAT test prep, making test prep a very lucrative industry.

This becomes a problem when looking at the financial status of many students. There are several kids who are completely capable in excelling in a college that challenges them, but if they lack the ability to focus or comprehend questions for a four hour test and get a bad score, colleges toss them into the reject pile. According to a report from ACT, low income students are found to perform worse on their ACT because a substantial number of students were less likely to have taken the recommended core curriculum.

Some would argue that test prep is just natural selection working. Isn’t that what capitalism, the backbone of this nation, is meant to do? Many say standardized tests are the proper way to separate those who are capable of succeeding in life and those who are not. However, test prep and standardized tests should not be about separating the superior from the inferior; they should be about making the playing field fair and allowing students to build a base for success.

 

1 Comment

One Response to “Standardized Testing Problematic Measure of Success”

  1. Maneesh John on January 11th, 2019 6:32 pm

    Although I agree with many of your statements, I don’t believe test prep has much correlation to money, ESPECIALLY for the SAT. There are many, many free resources, such as free practice tests and free videos through Khan Academy that prepare students for both the PSAT and the SAT.
    The real indicator of success here is the effort the students put into the test prep, not the money they put into it. I would agree, though, that some people are at a disadvantage because of lack of internet, lack of time, or lack of a good environment to study.

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Standardized Testing Problematic Measure of Success