We all know the experience of sitting for hours in a tense classroom, furiously bubbling away at a scantron. Whether it is an AP test or the SAT, this scene has become all too familiar for today’s students. In a world that is growing increasingly obsessed with standardization and quantification, it is important that we do not forget the fundamental purpose of education.
What many consider to be the epitome of standardized testing, the SAT, originated in the 1920s. Originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the assessment was designed to maximize objectivity and create a single, common set of criterion to evaluate students with. Its uniquely inflexible and decisive nature allowed it to become the basis for comparisons and measurements of progress.
Fast forward to today, and standardized tests such as the SAT are ubiquitous. Whether it be AP Exams, SAT Subject Tests, or the ACT; almost every assessment adheres to stringent standards.
In a world where academic progress is heavily determined by a number, it becomes very easy to lose sight of the original purpose of education. Freshman Nick Asante said, “The goal of education has changed from genuine academic improvement to scoring high marks on a pretty superficial test.”
The massive weight assigned to a single uncompromising number detracts from education by rewarding test-taking abilities, instead of more applicable, real-world skills. When students take SAT prep courses, they don’t truly learn anything new or beneficial, but simply memorize strategies for the test itself.
Nevertheless, there is no denying it: standardized testing is a necessity.
Throughout our country, there are over 55 million students. Evaluating all of them requires a common metric with which to compare them. That is impossible when students are taking different tests, each graded and evaluated differently.
The analyses of our student body that standardized testing provides us is what makes it possible to assess the overall success of our educational system. By analyzing test scores, we can see which areas of the country are lagging and which specific regions require assistance.
Furthermore, we can use test scores to study policy effectiveness. If Iowa adopts a new education law and scores increase, we can assume the policy was beneficial and use it to guide future decision-making.
Standardized education is a necessary evil. Its uncompromising nature allows us to progress and better our educational system as a whole, but it simultaneously corrodes the fundamental values of education itself.