What Standardized Tests Fail to Assess

CONNOR RAFFA, Staff Writer

   Senior year should be a time to get closer to classmates and enjoy the last couple of years before adulthood. However, for many in the high school class of 2020, this is overshadowed by an excess of stress, as students have struggled in recent months to turn in their college applications.

   Over the past couple of years, many of them have attempted to mold themselves into the ideal college student: one who has a variety of extracurriculars, leadership, nearly perfect grades and exceptional test scores. However, for many students, it is a struggle to achieve all this, and the expectation to do so often subjects them to immense pressure and a constant feeling of inferiority. The schools we get into are simply not indicative of our overall value or worth in society. Just because someone has received a better education, doesn’t mean they’re any better than anyone else, and we should stop raising kids to think that way. Simply too much of an emphasis is put on becoming the ideal student with perfect test scores, leaving more and more students feeling like they are not good enough when this is simply not the case.

   In recent years, standardized tests specifically have been subject to much debate. Granted, they are beneficial in indicating natural talent to a certain degree, but there is simply too much of an emphasis put on them. Students failing to achieve high test scores are oftentimes discouraged from applying to the colleges of their dreams, no matter how impressive the rest of their resume may be. For many colleges, standardized tests are one of the first things they look at, along with the student’s transcript allowing them to weed out students they don’t think would succeed at their school. But, while impressive transcripts are often indicative of immense effort (which more times than not leads success in life), some students simply perform better on standardized tests than others. These tests in and of themselves are not adequate for determining a child’s worth and as a result, their weight should be largely reconsidered.

    Furthermore, oftentimes standardized tests unfairly favor the wealthy. One factor to consider is the cost of these tests. For example, the SAT costs around $50 per attempt and some families can’t pay for the children to take this test more than once, even though this has been found to improve scores immensely. Also, wealthier students have easier access to academic support such as expensive tutors to prepare them for these standardized tests. CNBC found that in low-income families (those with an annual income of less than $20,000) the average score on the SAT reading section was 433. This pales in comparison to kids from high-income families (those making over $200,000 annually) who received an average score of 570. 

   The College Board tried to remedy this with an ‘adversity score’ which has since been revoked. This was a proposed solution to the wealth issue and would give each test taker an identity, represented in a score, which would be indicative of their background. This received a lot of backlash because it seemingly favored these underprivileged students over the wealthier ones, who even though they had greater opportunities, were still putting in the time to study. As a result, this policy was removed, and all things considered, this was the right move. If standardized tests truly want to be fair to everyone, free academic support and test prep is the most viable solution.

   While standardized tests effectively determine base-line intelligence to a certain degree, there are too many factors, such as wealth, which render it biased towards certain test takers. And, so much of an emphasis is put on achieving perfect test scores that it’s impossible for kids to just be kids. Only when they take a step back and understand that these tests don’t define them can they truly be content. Overall, while beneficial to a certain extent, standardized tests and the college application process as a whole, need to undergo significant changes to ensure fairness and for the mental well-being of our youth today.