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Standardized Testing

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From third grade to now, I have easily taken over 40 standardized tests. Between pre-diagnostics, diagnostics, STAAR tests, interim tests, Advanced Placement tests, and the SAT/ACT, standardized testing has comprised the majority of my school experience. Even as a child in elementary and middle school, I questioned the validity and quality of the education I was receiving. Like so many other students will attest to, my teachers seemed more concerned with ensuring that my “testing skills” were up to par than they did with providing an impactful education that would equip me for college and beyond (and as we will see, teachers are given little to no choice by people with much more power than they have).

As the new school year begins, many teachers and students at Nimitz and around the nation have already begun gearing up for STAAR (or similar statewide testing), Advanced Placement, ACT, and SAT tests. This is nothing new to America’s students and faculty, yet it occurs to me that the majority of students and even teachers know little about the history of standardized testing nor the research done in past years to validate it.

In order to evaluate standardized testing, we must understand the history behind it. The first standardized testing traces back to China, where young men were tested over the teachings of Confucius as qualifications for government jobs. In the west, essays were more common, particularly in Greece and later Rome. In 1905, a psychologist by the name of Alfred Binet developed an early form the IQ test that was later named the Stanford-Binet Test. By World War 1, the army had adopted the Army Mental Test in order to assign jobs to U.S. Servicemen. However, the grading of these tests had to be done by hand and proved to be both a tedious and inherently flawed task. Then in 1936, the IBM 805 was created as the first automatic grading scanner. This caused an explosion in standardized testing across the nation since the tests were now as easy to grade in mass quantity as they were to administer.

The most popular of these tests, the SAT, is still alive and well today. Founded in 1926 by the College Board, the Scholastic Aptitude Test soon became the official test for high school seniors hoping to attend college and remained largely unchanged from 1930 to 2005, when the analogy section was eliminated and a writing section was added. And now the SAT remains just one of many tests students must take throughout their educational career. Many have accused the SAT of being created for the sole purpose of separating the upper and lower class members of the application pool, however many of these claims were quieted by the 2005 revisions of the test. This high amount of testing and “teaching to the test” was only exacerbated by the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001, which centralized education and created national accountability standards to determine which schools are considered “low-performing”and to raise the literacy rate in America.

My goal in this article has not been to sway you in favor or protest of standardized testing, but rather to provide context for you to draw thoughtful and organized opinions toward the complex and often oversimplified relationships between standardized testing, student intelligence and the sociopolitical issues involved in testing so that you are able to begin a conversation about the issue which has proved to be such a hot topic of interest in schools.

If you feel standardized testing is unnecessary or discriminatory, don’t simply complain about them the day you take the test. Do research. Talk to teachers and authorities within the school. You will find that if you make it clear to our leaders you are serious about a topic through your knowledge of the issue rather than the level of your voice, they will listen.

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Standardized Testing