Standardized tests have become a recent controversial topic across the nation. Americans strive for a great education system, but fail to realize that testing is the main issue. They are believed to be a simple way to evaluate students from all different areas. However, there are countless faults that cannot show truly show students’ ability. Standardized tests in the United States do not accurately measure intelligence and should be modified to prevent issues in academics. Modern testing began when George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001.
This act requires the states to administer math and reading tests annually for students in grades 3 through 8 (The Case Against Standardized Testing). NCLB also imposes harsh punishments on schools who fail to make yearly progress. It states that 100% of schools nationwide much achieve proficiency in the state reading and math tests by 2014 (Mooney 37). Of course, this is a highly unrealistic expectation. By 2011, only half of all schools across the United States met adequate yearly progress. The schools who failed lost state/federal funding (Mooney 34). Essentially, NCLB did not make improvements to the education system in America.
In fact, after the act was passed, the United States went from ranked 18th in the world in math to 31st (Standardized Tests). In 2009, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) when NCLB expired (Korte). Realistically, ESSA is a modified version of NCLB and few changes have been made. One major difference, however, is that the act allows state tests to be broken up into a series of shorter tests over the course of a few days (Korte) In New York State, there are tests administered annually for students from grades 3 through 8 in math and reading.
They were designed to determine how a student will do in middle school and high school classes (Mooney 16). Although it may seem true, students and teachers have a completely different opinion. Students in grades 3 through 8 have stated that New York State Tests are complex, time consuming, and frustrating (Mooney 35). There have also been cases of large numbers of students crying or vomiting as the test was being administered (Standardized Tests). The Common Core learning standards have been adopted in New York. Forty-five other states are currently using Common Core as well (Mooney 24).
Unfortunately, the standards have not been successful. Many parents have decided to allow their children to opt out of the tests because of the stress and unhappiness it causes them. In 2015, over 200,000 students statewide opted out of the math and reading tests (The Case Against Standardized Testing). Parents of these young children have become very passionate and concerned about the education system. An advocacy group created by parents and teachers called the New York State Allies for Public Education opposes these tests and takes action to educate the community on the issue.
Currently, their Facebook page has over 17,000 members who are against the tests (The Case Against Standardized Testing). The Common Core standards also are ineffective with high school students. The questions on regents exams have been reworded to have excessive language and complicated processes. This is done to give the illusion of a “real world” problem (Strauss). A score of 79 and above on the English regents and a 74 and above on the Algebra regents is what New York State considers to be “college and career ready”. As of 2015, only 16% of the state is at that level (Taylor).
In 2014 the January English regents had a total of 2,200 words in the reading passages, and in 2015, with the Common Core standards, there were 6,200 words. The passages, vocabulary, and questions were modelled after the AP Language exam and the SAT (Strauss). With these standards, how is every student expected to excel? The Common Core Algebra I regents was also unfair to the students who took it. A number of questions included material that belonged on the Algebra 2 regents (Strauss). In the end, only 52% of the exam takers passed with a 65 and above (Taylor).
Because students are required to pass the Algebra regents to graduate, the 48% of students who did not pass will have to retake the regents. They are given the chance to retake the exam as many times as they need, however, this isn’t always helpful because they will not move on to geometry and algebra 2, which will prepare them more for college (Strauss). As the years go on, there is a chance the state mandated exams will be even less beneficial to students. The Common Core regents will increase the passing rate will change from a raw score of 30/84 to a 66/86 (Strauss).
Over 30 points will have to be received to only pass the exam; just imagine how this will impact scores in the future. By 2022, it is predicted that all 8th grade students will take Algebra 1 and be required to pass the regents (Taylor). Why do states administer these exams? The main reason is to evaluate schools and teachers. If a teacher does not meet the standards established by the state, they receive low evaluations, lower pay, and could even risk being fired (Mooney 19). Standardized tests can also be used to identify achievement gaps between students of different races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds (19).
When these gaps are recognized, educators can make changes to their teaching styles or test makers can alter the exams to benefit students. One of the many problems in the field of testing is that there is bias against certain students, which does not allow them to perform their best. For instance, special needs students are required to take the same test as other students. Few of them actually receive the many accommodations that are part of their education program (Standardized Tests).
Many tests are also bias against socioeconomically disadvantaged students. If a student comes from a poor family or community, they don’t lways attend a well-financed school and it is more difficult for them to access test preparation services. As a result, they do not score very high on tests, and are not always able to attend their college of choice (Soares). The majority of students, parents, and even educators believe that standardized testing is unreliable. A single test cannot determine how smart a student is, no matter how prepared they are. First of all, these tests do not actually help students to understand the material they learned throughout the school year. Instead, it is teaching them to memorize the facts, all so they are able to pass the test (Harris, Smith).
As a result, creative thinking comes to a stop (11 Problems Created by the Standardized Testing Obsession). Another reason testing is unreliable is because every student is completely different. Individual needs, interests, and abilities cannot be scored, which is why students don’t always do their best even if they know the information. With the large amounts of homework and studying students face each night, they lose hours of sleep, which is the largest factor of low scores on exams. There could also possibly be troubles at home or with one’s health that influence scores (Mooney 47).
Even in the classroom individual needs aren’t always met. Perhaps class size, instructional time, curriculum, and availability of specialists and tutors determine scores (47). With the high-stakes of standardized tests in 2016, there comes numerous problems. One of the main issues is test anxiety in students (Mooney 33). With multiple final exams to take, it becomes difficult for students to successfully study for each exam without sacrificing sleep or social life. Students will begin to worry about problems that haven’t even occurred, impacting their scores.
Eventually, they will become disengaged in school (The Case Against Standardized Testing). Students quickly lose motivation when there is so much focus on test preparation. Teachers also have problems with standardized testing. Many will start “teaching to the test”, which is when curriculum is dropped and there is only emphasis on the upcoming test (11 Problems Created By The Standardized Testing Obsession). For the state mandated tests, since only math and reading are evaluated, some schools have deemphasized or stopped social studies, art, science, music, and physical education (The Case Against Standardized Testing).
Seventy-one percent of schools have admitted to doing this (The Case Against Standardized Testing). At Park East High School in Manhattan, the teachers have placed so much pressure on the 9th grade students to pass the Algebra regents. There is so much pressure that in 2015 the students were not allowed to take art, music, or health and replaced those classes with 2 periods of math (Taylor). With these tests being so important, some teachers have even quit their jobs because it was too much for them to handle (11 Problems Created by the Standardized Testing Obsession).
One of the most common college admission tests is the SAT. It is considered one of the most reliable methods of testing. This is because it is administered across the United States and students from different states, schools, races, and family backgrounds can be compared and see how it ties into college preparedness (Mooney 62). While this is true, there is lots of bias in the SAT. It is mostly directed toward upper class white students. The verbal section is in favor of whites by using language they are more familiar with (Mooney 64).
A study found that black students scored an average of 100 points less, even though they were at the same academic level (Soares). Some also argue that there is too much weight being placed on the SAT. It is one of the most important factors on a college application, since it is supposed to determine how well-prepared a student is for college. On the other hand, it has been proven that GPA is a better indicator of college success than the SAT score alone (67). Only 6% of educators believe that the SAT can predict how well a student will perform in college (Harris, Smith).
Because of this recent realization, some colleges in the United States have become test-optional. Ithaca College, for example, has become testoptional since 2012. College President Thomas Rochon stated that this has increased the number of applicants, number of enrolled freshmen, and diversity of that class (68). He has also confirmed that the policy continues to be successful (69). The test-optional policy has not only been successful at Ithaca College. A recent study of 123,000 students from 33 different colleges who didn’t take the SAT had similar GPAs and graduation rates with students who did take the SAT (67).
Currently, almost 900 four year degree granting colleges are test-optional (Soares). Aside from academics, colleges have become more diverse. The proportion of African American, Latin American, Asian American, and Native American students increased from 17% to 21% (Harris, Smith). Standardized tests in the United States do not accurately measure intelligence and should be modified to prevent issues in academics. They essentially aren’t improving, which will become a huge problem for the American education system.