By Holly Scott
You begin reading the introductory paragraph: "Choose the following word or words that best complete each sentence." Your mind goes blank and you feel like you should be back in the first grade. Is it past tense or present tense, plural or possessive? You can't remember. The last possessive thing you remember was your high school boyfriend, not some grammar lesson you learned in the eighth grade. Thoughts of failure begin racing through your head and it's hard to come back to reality. Have you ever felt like this? Do you know people who have? If not, you are one of those lucky few.
The two dreaded words are: Standardized Testing. Is it really a valid method of measuring someone's intellect and achievements? My answer to the question would be a big fat NO! You start taking tests in kindergarten to test your intellect. Will you be in the advanced reader group or the beginners? It seems as though you never finish taking these tests that supposedly measure your abilities. The last job I applied for made me take a placement test, and I couldn't get an interview until I passed. It seems to me that companies could be losing very valuable employees who have the communication skills to help the company.
Standardized tests really start to hit home for you in high school when you begin taking the ACT or SAT, which are required for your admission into college. Not only do these tests "measure your intellect," but they are the biggies that your future college education depends on. If you don't get that certain score, you won't be getting into that certain college, which happens to have that certain major you've dreamed of studying since you were 5 years old.
The primary reason students are tested is to rank-order them. Whichever student gets the highest score is the smartest. Or is it really a question of who tests well and who does not? What about those artistic and creative right-brain thinkers, versus the factual and logical left-brain thinkers? I feel that standardized testing brings much more harm than good. Lessons that can be learned from these tests are things such as:
-- Someone else knows something that you should know better than you.
When a student's mind is filled with thoughts such as these it can become very damaging to their self-esteem, along with their academic progression.
Naturally some students are going to be better at excelling on these exams than others. The test scores are only rewarding those students who excel at the test-taking style of learning, rather than those who may excel in giving presentations or writing papers, for example. These tests are not measuring one's creative ability, interests, or skills that enable them to work hard and learn by achievement and progression. Instead, standardized tests have a very narrow focus. The student is left with a number or letter grade that tells them if they succeeded or not. This principle forces teachers to teach the things that are going to be on the test so their students can pass. Instead of examining several avenues, the main concern becomes what is on the test. This makes it hard for students to broaden their thinking and what they are willing to take in and learn.
For a student to truly be recognized and measured on a scale more fairly, another system must be implemented. An alternative to standardized testing might be something such as assessing one's performance rather than their ability to take a test. This would enable the student to present the work they have produced, and can be a form of hard copy evidence that they can achieve without showing their skills by simply choosing A, B, C, or D.
Standardized testing is not the answer to finding out if a student is smart enough to go to a certain institution, or if a student is achieved enough to receive a scholarship. Students should be judged on their ability to work hard and learn. To be penalized by having to take all these tests to see if they qualify is simply not fair. Everyone has a different style of learning that helps them excel. A simple test score should not be the determining factor.
--Holly Scott is a USU student.