AP English Language and Composition
February 3, 2015
What Do You Really Get From Standardized Tests?
The world today revolves around the level of education a person receives. So most people have to go to college if they want to get a decent paying job. However, what is most troubling is how students are selected to be accepted into a college or university. Most college’s selection process is based on how well a student does on the SAT or ACT, standardized tests. Are these tests improving a student’s ability to learn though? To pass one of these tests, all someone would have to do is memorize facts and methods that would lead them to the supposedly correct answer. Even though standardized tests provide some basic information about a student’s ability to learn, these tests can never teach a student how to learn; they can never truly prepare a student for a career, and what is even scarier is that “I hear story after story about music, and art…being cut out of the school day to make more time for the drilling and routine work” (Clinton). Standardized tests are not appropriate for any student trying to be successful in the future, whether it be in college or in the workplace. Most people have heard the saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” (Maimonides). Few people could make the connection between that proverb and education. Schools are trying to “teach to the test” which is simply giving kids bits and pieces of information in the hopes that they will remember them for the rest of their lives. That is like when a man is given a fish. The students know the information for a short period of time, but like most people, they “forget most of what they have learnt” (Sayers). If schools stop this and start giving students the “trivium” then they can learn for a lifetime and be able to know “how to tackle a new subject for themselves” (Sayers). Teaching so students can pass a test is not the best path to follow. Sure, temporary growth in knowledge might occur, but in the long run, students need to be able to think for themselves when there are no set rules to follow.
The SAT tests a student on three different subjects: math, reading, and writing. The ACT tests a student on four different subjects: math, science, reading, and writing. Neither of these tests prepare a student for life after college. In fact, “none of the characteristics that are important for thriving in the world of the twenty-first century are encouraged by standardized testing” (Ravitch). The tests teach them to find the error in a sentence, or how to solve a system of equations, or even how to pick out the tone of an author’s voice. The tests don’t teach the students how to present an argument or idea well; they don’t teach a student how to work well with other people, nor do they teach the students the basic finances needed to survive in this world. If these tests are practically ineffective, why are they still used? Why do students still have to slave hour after hour in a classroom filling in bubbles and wonder why they ever decided to take this test?
One argument is that “some information for making decisions is better than none” (Phelps). Most people would readily agree with this. However, not many people remember what they learned in high school because they taught the curriculum in a way so that students could just pass the test. In 2013, a group of 50 adults, who were scientists, engineers, council members, professors and other equally respected professions, took an exam from Rhode Island called the NECAP, which is required to graduate from high school. There are four categories that a score could fall within: proficient with distinction, proficient, partially proficient, and substantially below proficient. Four of the 50 fell within the first category, seven within the second, eleven in the third, and 30 within the last. 30 of the adults, or 60 percent, would be in