If you read the title of this post, you probably then clicked the link because you were genuinely confused and wanted to know what the heck I was thinking when I wrote this post. Well, I have some good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) news for you. I’m completely serious. I love that we have standardized tests. But I don’t think they’re beneficial, and getting rid of them might do a whole ton of good.
Let’s start with me: I do really, really well on standardized tests. I always have, I just naturally guess well and respond well to bubble sheets. It might be because I’m so competitive, or maybe I’m just really freakin’ lucky all the time. The point is, I do so well on SATs and the like that I was recently named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist– all because of my PSAT scores. Now, I’m not saying I’m not deserving of this award, at all. I’m smart (I say so without bragging) and work in school, taking 4 AP classes this year (okay maybe I’m bragging a little bit). Basically, I’m one of those nerds. So yeah, I should have been an NMS finalist.
But there’s the rub. One of my nearest and dearest friends, whom I would consider infinitely smarter than anyone in our entire school– she’s gifted and all she does is school all the time– didn’t even become a semifinalist. And she’s a genius. But she’s not on the award list, and doesn’t have the opportunity to win money that she is likely overqualified for.
On the same token, I was getting a 5 on my AP English Lang exam from day one of the school year. A different friend worked hard, studied, got an A in the class, and only managed a 3 on the exam (it’s out of 5). And she knew her English language let me tell you. The reason? She’s incredibly slow. It’s like when she’s pressured to write something or think, it just doesn’t work and her brain stops moving. So a clever girl who knows more than just “average” is only barely passing, despite all of the work that she’s put in.
Standardized testing inherently favors those who work fast, guess well, and have a logical brain formation. For the people who are more creative thinkers, take their time, or allow their mind to wander (or in the case of my friend, who won’t stop trying to think of big words to use in her essays when the small one would suffice) don’t do well, even when they fully understand the material.
More and more often, colleges are not requiring SATs or ACTs to get into the school, but the competitive ones still do. And by segmenting it like that, it will be impossible for the creative geniuses– and the ones who are great at math but only if they do lattice rather than the easy multiplication– are going to be left behind, rejected from colleges which they could enrich with their new perspective on education.
Yeah, I benefitted from the standardized testing procedure, but other people are being left behind, and that’s not fair. We need a better way to make sure the students in Arkansas are as smart as the ones in New York, and that the inner city students and country folk aren’t struggling in comparison with the rich suburban children. There needs to be some level of comparison, and I understand that. But having kids sit down for 3 hours straight to decide their future is a terrible way to do it. America, we need to think this through. Perhaps nationalized projects once a year, or compiling a yearly portfolio would be a more fair way of collecting data. Yes, it would be more time consuming for the “graders”, but at least it would give everyone a fair chance, and there wouldn’t be the 5th grader who goes home crying because the day he took STAR Reading he was sick and now he’s stuck reading picture books for the year.
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