The Decline of Standardized Testing

Standardization became a significant trend in recent educational reforms. During the last decade, there was an initiative for enhanced standardization of education in the country. The Common Core State Standards Initiative was supported extensively by prominent political figures. The Race to the Top, an initiative created by the Obama administration, also provided grants for the development of standardized tests (Benjamin and Pashler 13). Nevertheless, tests such as the SAT have been part of education and served as a basis for college admission for decades. The tendency received all sorts of criticism, possibly limiting public approval and adoption (Benjamin and Pashler 13). Currently, the opponents of standardization who doubt the utility of tests for evaluation and college admission seemingly have become more numerous, attracting attention to the issue. The evidence and arguments against standardized tests call for a revision of the current methods of measuring students’ qualifications and readiness for higher education.

The proponents of the standardized testing attribute to it a wide variety of benefits. For instance, regularization of education is viewed as one of the ways to manage the declining educational outcomes in the United States that provoke public concern (Benjamin and Pashler 13). Standardization of testing is supposed to facilitate determining whether students reach the new school criteria (Benjamin and Pashler 13). The approach allows for obtaining essential for evaluating the quality of education metrics. Data from SAT and ACT helps to detect the strength and weaknesses of the curriculum for further improvement. Moreover, the SAT and ACT were also supposed to bridge the gap between students from low- and high-income households. Despite their positive sides, standardized tests seemingly are not the most efficient method to evaluate students’ readiness to enter a higher education institution.

The primary argument for standardized tests is that they should objectively and comprehensively reflect students’ intellectual abilities and knowledge. Yet, this assumption on which the country’s college admission process relies greatly might not be entirely correct. A test cannot encompass extensive parts of a person’s knowledge but assesses a student’s mental capabilities by merely testing certain aspects of their education. Tests designed for measuring the performance of an average abstract student cannot measure a specific individual student correctly. Anxiety, a disease, insomnia before the test, and multiple other factors might harm results. Moreover, it is claimed that SAT scores do not predetermine a student’s academic success in university, while GPA influences it (Pretz and Kaufman 243). The claim that standardized testing can determine general intelligence is controversial: there seems to be no clear consensus on whether it is so.

SAT and ACT are supposed to be neutral and unbiased: one of their main objectives is to overcome prejudice towards socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Despite the good intentions, the test scores correlate with socioeconomic status and show students’ economic situation rather than their general intelligence. Stanford University sociologist Sean Reardon investigated the problem and found a significant discrepancy between students’ test results from high- and low-income households. It is stated that “the relationships between a family’s position in the income distribution and their children’s academic achievement has grown substantially stronger during the last half-century” (Lee par. 7). Additionally, socioeconomic status impacts preparation for standardized tests, deepening the divide between different social classes. SAT preparation, such as one-on-one tutoring or in-person courses, is inaccessible for students from low-income households. Students belonging to the upper class or upper-middle class have a sizable advantage, accessing more resources to succeed in standardized testing. SAT and ACT are not neutral, as belonging to a particular social class plays an extensive role in results.

Another downside of SAT and ACT is that their results depend on a unique skill – test-taking. Passing SAT, ACT or any other test requires substantial preparation that is not necessarily strongly related to its content. The knowledge regarding the order in which to answer questions, elimination of possible variants, time-management, appropriate practice the night before, and many other factors directly influence the score. The amount of information dedicated to test-taking strategies and preparation accentuates its significance for succeeding in standardized tests. Although their primary aim is to measure students’ readiness for college including general intelligence, SAT and ACT require skills that do not seem to be directly related to this. The tests’ scores depend not only on intelligence and knowledge but also on intuition, emotional stability, and test-taking skills.

Standardized tests do not capture a highly significant for academic success quality – creativity. A study performed by Pretz and Kaufman showed that standardized test scores do not reflect non-academic creativity, not restricted to essay writing (248). The quality is frequently distinguished as a crucial non-cognitive construct that college admissions lack (Pretz and Kaufman 243). However, creativity is essential for innovation and independent thinking. The researchers state that “if higher education faculty and administrators seek to develop critical and creative thinkers who can adapt to and innovate in a rapidly changing society, we must identify and develop creativity among our students” (Pretz and Kaufman 248). Furthermore, theoretical arguments suggesting the strong correlation between intellectual and creative abilities become more widespread among scholars (244). In this way, by focusing almost exclusively on general intelligence, standardized testing ignores a crucial in the contemporary world quality.

Even though the SAT and ACT became ingrained in the current educational system, alternative methods to measure students’ qualifications to enter college exist. Currently, approximately 1,000 higher education institutions in the United States temporarily discontinued SAT and ACT use in assessing their applicants (Carnevale par. 1). Among them, Ivy League-level prestige higher education institutions such as the University of California (Carnevale par. 1). The COVID-19 pandemic might have accelerated the end of standardized testing since many students were not able to take the exam this year. Due to this public health crisis, taking a standardized test became not obligatory for the fall’s admission session in various colleges and universities. SAT and ACT were an indispensable part of the college admission process for many students. The situation could change in the near future – alternatives such as portfolio-based assessment or adaptive testing become more popular.

In conclusion, standardized tests do not seem like an effective way to measure college readiness and are not used as such by a gradually increasing number of colleges. Although they allow obtaining metrics regarding the quality of education in the country, other premises of standardized tests such as SAT and ACT potentially are not valid. The neutrality of the tests has many objections as well as its comprehensiveness and capacity to measure general intelligence. As more and more higher education institutions no longer require taking standardized tests for admission, their cultural significance and role in education might decline.

Works Cited

Benjamin, Aaron S., and Hal Pashler. “The Value of Standardized Testing.” Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 2, no. 1, 2015, pp. 13–23

Carnevale, Anthony P. Much Work to Be Done. Inside Higher Ed, 2020. Web.

Lee, Evelyn. Standardized Tests Don’t Measure Intelligence or Ability. Pepperdine Graphic, 2016. Web.

Pretz, Jean, and James C. Kaufman. “Do Traditional Admissions Criteria Reflect Applicant Creativity?.” The Journal of Creative Behavior, vol. 51, no. 3, 2015, pp. 240–251

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ChalkyPapers. "The Decline of Standardized Testing." October 10, 2023.