Stressed to Be the Best

Ashlyn Wages, Journalism 1 student

Standardized testing: is it beneficial or not?

The room is silent. All that can be heard is the faint squeaking of pencils on paper and the occasional sniffle. This test determines your future. Scholarships, college acceptance, even graduation all depend on how well you do on this four part, six hour, multiple choice assessment. Your brain wanders off into space as you struggle to finish the test you have been taking all day.

Students take standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT and end of course exams multiple times a year every school year; students and teachers feel as though they simply are not beneficial.

These tests are known for causing stress. Students know that big tests like these determine many aspects of their future, which can be a terrifying thought for seventeen-year-olds.

Only 60% of students even believe these tests are beneficial (Survey Addresses Teens and Tests). For the most part, they severely stress out students, like Caleb Sample, junior.

“I’m always worried about the score that I will earn because it is evidence of my dedication and usually the dedication of my teachers or the lack thereof,” Sample said.

Not only do standardized tests cause stress to students and teachers, but they also simply do not benefit students because they cause learning to not be the priority in the classroom.

Recent studies have found that the standard multiple choice tests, like the SAT and ACT, promote memorization rather than critical thinking skills in students (Standardized Testing).

“[They only show] my ability to get [students] to memorize trivial, forgettable facts that will be on the test,” James Howell, history teacher, said. “No one is going to cross my path 20 years from now shake my hand and say ‘Wow, Mr. Howell, you really prepared me for that standardized test.’”

Standardized testing was previously used as a teaching aid,but now they are used to determine student’s intelligence and school funding (Standardized Testing).

Typically, the schools with the lower test scores are the ones that need the most funding, which causes an endless cycle of schools not getting the money they need.

“To take funding away from the schools that need it the most would have, I believe, detrimental effects on the students and their future,” Sample said.

On the other hand, while there are some downsides to standardized tests,  Sample believes they can be beneficial in some areas.

Tests like the SAT and ACT can provide scholarships for students. For example, Baylor University offers scholarships for more than $40,000 for SAT scores above 1300 and ACT scores above 30 (Edwards).

“[It] allows students to go to college for less money, and it gives some people who wouldn’t have the chance to go to college the chance to do so,” Sample said.

However teachers, like Howell, and students like Cameron Kean, junior, both believe the cons far outweigh the pros.

Since normally standardized tests rely on memorization rather than critical thinking skills, they are not an accurate measure of most students’ knowledge.

“I don’t think standardized tests accurately measure a student’s potential and they mentally exhaust me,” Kean said.

Not only do standardized tests not measure student knowledge and progress, they also cause teaching to not be the priority in the classroom.

Fifty-nine percent of teachers believe they do not have enough time to prepare students for the tests or they limit the time they have to teach other subject matter (Survey Addresses). This time limit forces teachers to have to speed through important information in order to prepare students for standardized tests.

“My teachers often have to rush through information to be able to fit everything in,” Sample said. “Having more information to learn than we have time to do so means more pressure is put on us students to teach ourselves things outside of the classroom.”

Contrary to how students feel about these tests, they are a major part of the modern education system. Even though 30% of students do not even feel as though these tests are an accurate representation of their knowledge, 20% of students say they have taken more than four standardized tests just in the last year.

“[Standardized testing] eliminates teaching and inspires a slavish devotion to what’s on the test,” Howell said.