OPINION: Do Tests Actually Assess?

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Everyone has to survive the monster of high school: standardized tests. They’re dreadful, stressful and, unfortunately, impactful on all of our futures. Scores on the PSAT, SAT and ACT take on major roles in universities’ decisions on acceptance. But why? These tests seem to produce good scores based on a students’ ability to learn the “tricks” of standardized testing as opposed to assessing student knowledge. So, why do these tests have such a large influence on whether my dream school will accept me or not? Shouldn’t I be admitted based on my knowledge and not my memorization skills?

New guidance counselor Heather Henning served as Senior Admissions Recruitment Coordinator at the University of Missouri for the past ten years. She explained that colleges relay their decision so heavily on standardized testing because “[These tests are] research based, so it’s not just a common theory. The ACT and SAT are one of the best predictors we have for how a students will do in college,” Hennings said.

While there does need to be a standard that allows colleges to compare students from across the country and to predict students’ success once admitted to various institutions, I question if these high-stakes tests are actually accomplishing these goals. When I study, I’m not expanding my knowledge of math or language, but rather learning the patterns of these tests.

With above-average test scores, Blue Valley North is obviously doing something right when preparing its students for standardized testing.

“The teachers are all aware of the standards that are on the test and they know how to incorporate that into their curriculum. The parents have a strong involvement,” guidance counselor Megan Standefer said.

Along with parent and teacher support, Standefer believes the school does a great job of communicating to students how to succeed.

“I think the students are just more aware what their goal is by the end of their junior year,” Standefer said.

College Board is making changes to the PSAT and SAT (listed in the diagram below) that will go into effect for the current sophomore class and hopefully will make the tests better indicators of student potential.

“I think they are redesigning it because they are realigning it with the needs for college admission. It’s been a long-standing exam and times change and tests have to adapt,” Hennings said.

Hopefully, these changes force students to study information to increase their knowledge instead of the current practice of simply learning test-taking tactics– a system many students at North have discovered and perfected. As of right now, I’m not a fan of the standardized testing process. It’s an unfair representation of students’ knowledge and ability to learn. Some students are born with the “test-taking-gift,” while others who aren’t as lucky have a stronger work ethic but lower test scores. There need to be other standards for colleges to base their acceptance on.

Having said that, I’m hopeful that the testing’s validity will increase with these new changes CollegeBoard is making. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s getting there

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