Did you know that in the United States, the average student takes 10 standardized tests each year from kindergarten through twelfth grade. This amounts to 120 standardized tests throughout their time in school. Standardized testing is one of the most stressful experiences students have in school, and these grades often impact their entire future. Most high school and college students stress about their grades on the SAT or ACT because those grades can have a major impact on college acceptance. Standardized testing has long been seen as a reliable way to measure education success. However, standardized testing has many flaws that are often designed to work against students including racism, sexism, and disregard for differences in learning styles.
One of the biggest issues with standardized testing is that they are sexist. While its hard to believe that a test can be sexist, studies have highlighted a few problems.
The first problem is that the test is formatted as multiple-choice questions. Men tend to do better on multiple choice questions than women. This is because women prefer to reason out answers and therefore tend to better on open-ended questions. In addition, men are more likely to guess on questions they don't know. A 2018 study done by Stanford University found that question format alone accounts for 25 percent of the gender difference in scores in both the reading and math and portions of tests (ProCon). Another issue is that most questions revolve around male characters participating in male-dominated activities (Johnson). People do better on questions where they see themselves represented.
Standardized tests were originally designed to be racist. During World War I, standardized tests were first created to determine which recruits would be the best fit for Army officer training. These test were designed to segregate soldiers by race, which at the time was believed to be linked to intelligence (Gilmore). This test later became the SAT, and the test has still not been stripped of all racial bias.
Standardized testing often requires you knowledge of things like tennis, timpani, ballet, and golf (Gilmore). These are all items or concepts that are uncommon in minority communities. Requiring knowledge of concepts usually found in higher class communities puts minority students at a severe disadvantage.
Standardized testing requires a very narrow set of skills and disregards differences in learning styles. Problem-solving skills and being able to think creatively are far more useful skills in the real world. In fact, standardized tests completely ignore all practical life skills that students may have; skills that would be far more valuable to a potential employer.
Standardized testing also ignores other factors that may be affecting students' test scores. Students may be financially struggling and not been able to eat breakfast. Students could also be under a lot of stress from family life. There are many things outside a student's control that can affect their score.
One of biggest problems with standardized testing is that students in the bottom 10 percent of test-takers are 33 percent more likely to drop out of school in states that require graduation tests (Briggs).
In addition, studies have found that the pressure from high-stakes testing has led to a decreased chance that 8th- and 9th-graders will eventually enter and complete 12th grade (Solley).
In conclusion, with all of these problems in standardized testing why is it still such a valued tool? Why should one grade determine the course of your future? Standardized testing favors boys by providing a question format they score better on. It discriminates against minorities by requiring them to have knowledge of things unavailable to them. Standardized testing ignores practical skills and talents that students have. The pressure surrounding standardized testing overwhelms students causing them a lot of stress and gives them a bad sense of self-worth. Standardized testing needs to be altered so that it provides a more diverse and accurate representation of student success. So next time you go to take a test, do your best, and remember you are worth far more than your score. Everyone has their own unique talents and standardized testing is only one way of looking at what you can do.
Briggs, Saga. “The Perils of Standardized Testing: 6 Ways It Harms Learning.” Open Colleges June 2013. https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/the-perils-of-standardized-testing/. Accessed 17 January 2023.
“Do Standardized Tests Improve Education in America.” ProCon.org, 7 December 2020. https://standardizedtests.procon.org/. Accessed 17 January 2023.
Gilmore, Harvey. “Standardized Testing, Learning, and Meritocracy: A Reply to Professor Dan Subotnik.” Touro Law Review. 2016, Vol. 32 Issue 2, p367-405. 19p. Accessed 17 January 2023.
Johnson, Helen. “Gender bias in tests: Numbers themselves prove sexist.” The Miscellany News, 25 April 2019. https://miscellanynews.org/2019/04/25/opinions/gender-bias-in-tests-numbers-themselves-prove-sexist/. Accessed 17 January 2023.
Solley, Bobbie A. "Standardized Testing Has Negatively Impacted Public Schools." Education, edited by David Haugen and Susan Musser, Greenhaven Press, 2009. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/EJ3010129275/OVIC?u=lincclin_lscc&sid=bookmark-OVIC&xid=20f2fd30. Accessed 17 January 2023. Originally published as "On Standardized Testing: An ACEI Position Paper," Childhood Education, fall 2007, pp. 31-37.