Is Standardized Testing Worth It?

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Is Standardized Testing Worth It?

Claudia Wilkie, Guest Contributor

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During a student’s twelve years in school, they take about 112 standardized tests. That is more than ten a year and about the same number of days it rains in Las Vegas per year. Besides the obvious stress and objective outcomes of these tests, the scores of the test vary vastly according to the household incomes for each student.

The most important tests in any high-schooler’s life is the ACT and SAT. These four hour tests can decide what college a high-schooler can get into, how much money they are offered from schools in scholarships, and even something as simple as whether or not they can get into college. This is why it is so important to do as well as possible on the standardized tests.  Since my parents wanted me to have every advantage possible, I took the ACT three times and the SAT once. I was also lucky enough to receive tutoring for these tests so I would know the tricks to taking them. But after I took all the tests, I realized how expensive the whole experience was. My tutoring was $45 a session and I had three sessions, and the ACT was $62.50 and I took that three times. The total cost for me to take the ACT ended up being $322.50. That’s when I realized that the biggest problem with wasn’t the test anxiety or the objective grading, but the cost and the effect that has on low income families.

When you are worrying about putting food on the table, the last thing on your mind is scrounging up $135 for tutoring so that your child can learn how to take a standardized test. Most likely, they will just take the school administered test and have the score they get be the final score. This leads to a large inequality in test scores. For example, students in Chicago Public Schools have an average of an 18.4 on the ACT, while students in the Geneva Public School district have an average of 24.3. Income is directly related; 83.9% of students in CPS are considered low income, while only 5.6% of kids in GPS are. It also happens to affect minority students more on average, as only 14.9% of the Geneva Public School system is of a minority race, compared to 89.9% in the Chicago Public School district.  Not only can Geneva students afford, on average, more tutoring and chances to retake the test, they can also afford to have a better school system, giving the kids who don’t take advantage of tutoring and other opportunities still a large advantage.

This issue affects everyone because when people of different backgrounds are not able to go to the college of their choice or go at all, their opportunities in life are much more limited. There have been many attempts to fix this problem, for example, many school have a test optional application where applicants do not have to submit their test scores. College Board (the company that owns the SAT tests) partnered with Kahn Academy to create free online tutoring for the test. These are great steps toward fixing the problem, but they need to be more widespread because as of now, low-income students in America are not on a level playing-field.


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