Standardized tests deviate students from progressive path

Nick Abraham, Opinion Editor

As early as middle school, students are told how important standardized test scores are for their futures. Whether it be the SAT or ACT, these scores are an immense factor in the admissions process. Despite the weight these tests carry, they are inaccurate in representing students’ intelligence.

These tests are a flawed concept. Creating an objective benchmark to evaluate students takes their individuality out of focus and ignores students’ varying ways of learning and forms of intelligence.

The tests’ time constraint perpetuates this negative culture, making high-pressure situations where students cannot spend enough time on answers. This weeds out extremely intelligent students who may not be quick thinkers, demonstrating that we live in a “dog-eat-dog” world that quantifies individuals rather than evaluating them by their understanding of the world around them.

Additionally, the test puts the largest disadvantage on non-native English speakers. The SAT and ACT rely on students’ English fluency, not their actual knowledge. Our country, and especially Sequoia, is comprised of very diverse students, many of whom will have the same knowledge as their classmates who speak English as a first language, but may receive drastically different standardized test scores.

There are schools that really like high [SAT] scores, and there are some schools that say it’s important, but it’s not everything. They look at [the scores] in the context of everything else.

— Teresa Ignaitis, College and Career Counselor

Regardless of their original purpose, standardized tests have become increasingly dependent on economic status as the test preparation industry has become more prevalent, with companies like AJ Tutoring receiving many Bay Area students in classes or one-on-one tutoring sessions to prepare extensively for tests.
These sessions and classes are very expensive, giving a disadvantage to students from low-income families who do not have the same resources that higher income, more privileged students have.

While there are companies such as Khan Academy with free preparation programs online, using these services also requires having access to a computer and internet, and is also not as personalized as the tutoring sessions that others take.

In any case, students shouldn’t feel the need to spend so much time preparing for tests. We should be able to spend our time pursuing our passions and making many positive impacts on our communities. Instead, we spend our time learning how to take tests that do not help anyone in the long run but the unfair system they perpetuate.

According to Teresa Ignaitis, College and Career Counselor, students should not be as worried as they tend to be now about their test scores.
“If someone got perfect SAT scores and didn’t do well in school, those scores are going to get them nowhere except for a few schools,” she said. “It’s just one out of [many] things that [schools] look at.”

It is not surprising that we are so worried about tests. After all, they are emphasized to such an extent so early on in or before our application processes.
Naviance shows a scatterplot of the SAT scores and GPA’s for every Sequoia student that applied to University of California at Berkeley, for example. The majority of students who got into the school had very high SAT scores and GPAs.

The question remains: what do we do with it, and where do we go from here? There is no immediate solution, but the process for changing the way standardized tests are seen starts with us. We, as students, must realize that the contributions we make to our communities are much more important than numbers on a paper. When we shift our focus to this, our schools and society will take notice, and make changes to account for it.