The Value of Standardized Testing


Megan Lenzi

The ACT/SAT is an integral part of the college application process. However, does standardized testing fairly determine college readiness?

In what should come as a surprise to no one, there is not one person on the Drops of Ink staff who holds a positive opinion of standardized testing. At best, people were ambivalent.

Test scores are an integral part of the application process for colleges, and this, working in tandem with the one-dimensional view of students they exacerbate, is a source of mass discontent among high school students. And how can you blame us? There are multitudes of circumstances that could potentially influence — for better or for worse — the score a student receives, none of which a test score has the capacity to measure.

Although there is a growing movement among some colleges to place less stock in test scores, the majority of institutions still utilize them as a baseline to see if a student’s application should be considered. Naturally, this leaves many students feeling disheartened and ultimately frustrated, as anyone would be if the validity of effort spanning four arduous years hinged on a single test score.

Additionally, a dichotomy exists between the content of these tests, the manner in which they are prepared for and the reality of the college experience. This is evidenced in how they are tutored for, where many students are not taught content but rather test-taking strategies and time management. As a measurement of college readiness, many hold that tests like the ACT and SAT do not live up to what they claim to measure. Compared to the plentiful variety of majors offered for undergraduate students, the range of subjects assessed in these tests are shockingly deficient. The one somewhat relevant proficiency that standardized tests gauge is mental endurance, which is ultimately made a moot point in recognizing that there are very few instances when college students will take a four-hour test. To circumvent this, it would be nice to give students a choice in the order that they take the sections, so that nobody would have to take their worst section last, when they are mentally exhausted.

But there is one thing that seems to be ever-central to the debate surrounding standardized tests: their “fairness,” or whether or not they live up to the standardized component of their name. A “standard” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluation.” However, in taking into account economic circumstances and fluctuations in the quality of education from district to district, can we call these tests standardized? Wealthier school districts have a clear advantage in that their focus is not expended on preventing students from dropping out, as opposed to less affluent districts, meaning their central goal is college readiness. Furthermore, many residents of wealthy districts have excess money to spend on commodities like pricey tutoring hours and prep books, meaning that their children go into test day better prepared than those who are unable to afford the same luxuries.

In discussions among students at LHS concerning the equity of standardized testing, the influence of economic circumstance is not often brought up, at least not in a manner directly related to its effect on us. Although there are many facets of these tests that unequivocally ought to be improved upon or even completely changed, it is important to recognize the privilege that the students of LHS enjoy regarding these tests. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and frustration wrought by expectations placed upon us by peers, parents or colleges. However, we are one of the best public high schools in the state, with SAT and ACT averages, respectively, soaring above the national average at 1211 and 25.9 in comparison to 1068 and a 20.8. 

So, despite the animosity that students at LHS may feel towards these tests, it is essential to acknowledge the privilege we possess on account of where we live, which serves as nothing but a benefit in the long run. Although the same problems with these tests do also apply to us, by no means have we gotten the short end of the standards.