Since 1965, the world has become accustomed to a new form of academic evaluation. The standardized testing system impacts the lives of students starting as young as pre-k and continues past undergraduate admissions into the professional world in the form of exams like the MCAT, LSAT and GRE. Standardized testing was created with the intent of leveling the playing field and to create an objective measurement of education along with a scale on which to analyze improvement.
Unfortunately, not every student performs the same way under rigorous testing. While some students thrive under fluorescent lights and strict time limits, many students cannot demonstrate their knowledge purely because of the high-stakes atmosphere associated with standardized testing. Students end up missing questions, not because they do not know the material but because the lights are too bright, it is too hot or too cold or because of test anxiety.
Concerns surrounding the impartiality of standardized testing have risen in recent years, the most significant being the Richard V. Reeves college admissions scandal. On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, federal prosecutors brought charges against 50 adults when it was discovered that wealthy parents had been paying exorbitant amounts of funds to influence their children’s admission to premier colleges such as Yale, Stanford and Georgetown. The scandal involved organizations that had been helping students cheat on entrance exams and intelligence quotient tests, even going so far as to bribe coaches and trainers to convince athletic recruiters that their students were deserving of admittance to their target college. “Evident by the recent college admissions scandal, which demonstrated how the wealthy could gain an advantage by cheating on the test, standardized testing can be rigged against the marginalized,” said Keshav Singh, a reporter for theLos Altos Town Crier in a 2019 article. When exams can be bought and acceptance manipulated, the idea of testing equality seems unattainable.
It’s not only cheating via financial means that creates this atmosphere of elitism. Students can gain an advantage in the form of test prep classes — classes specifically designed to help students to score highly on exams regardless of level of content understanding. More concerning is the impact of socioeconomic status on standardized testing scores. Across the board, students in low income areas score in the lowest testing percentiles. This directly contradicts the “American Dream,” or the concept of equality of opportunity that has been regarded as a sovereign value in our nation since the beginning. “[Standardized] testing is neither an objective nor accurate display of a student's academic ability.” Singh said.
Universities across the country are starting to realize these inherent disadvantages. Northern Illinois University, Reed College, Hampshire College and the University of California, Berkeley, to name a few, have begun removing standardized testing scores from their considerations for admission. This is a change that is necessary to continue throughout all bachelor and post-baccalaureate programs.
The culture of standardized testing has become an all-consuming part of modern students’ lives. Today, students are not being taught how to learn and apply the information they are taught, but are instead being trained on how to succeed on tests that fail to assess their intelligence and overall academic ability. To ensure a fair chance in higher education, the standardized testing system in America must go.