How Fair are Standardized Tests?

Avery Hughes

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  Standardized tests such as SAT, ACT and PSAT are intended to measure a student’s abilities for various colleges to see upon application. The problem with these standardized tests is that they are exactly what their names suggest: standard. The tests don’t vary depending on the ability of the student, or take into account a myriad of other factors that makes a student unique.

      The test is unfair for students who are in average classes for their grade level, for example, a student who was in Math 2 as a sophomore – the average math class for that grade level – would be unsuccessful because the test had a whole section based on the things they wouldn’t learn until Math 3, the following year. The sophomores taking Math 3 would pass with flying colors, while the students in Math 2 don’t have the ability to do problems and math they haven’t yet learned.

    This kind of thing really separates the students who are exceeding from the ones who are taking the average classes for their grade level. There’s nothing wrong with ‘average’ because it’s the majority of the population. These tests are specifically intended to single kids out, instead of giving every child an equal opportunity to show what they’re capable of.

    Since all of these tests are computerized, meaning each test is printed out and formatted by computers into physical copies, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have tests for individual kids. This will ensure that those in higher, average and lower classes can demonstrate the best of their abilities. These tests should be based solely on each individual student’s capabilities and there should be different versions of the test that correspond with the classes that students are taking so that everyone can get the most out of their SATs/ACTs.

    Social inequalities are also a huge issue among high school students who take SAT/ACT. Due to racial gaps, economical differences and other factors, not all students have the luxury to take the classes and do the preparation they need to succeed on these tests.

    According to Brookings, “The mean score on the math section of the SAT for all test-takers is 511 out of 800, the average scores for blacks (428) and Latinos (457) are significantly below those of whites (534) and Asians (598). The scores of black and Latino students are clustered towards the bottom of the distribution, while white scores are relatively normally distributed, and Asians are clustered at the top.”

   Urban and rural schools students suffer the most to wealthier schools, for example, according to The Atlantic, “Philadelphia public students are overwhelmingly poor: 79 percent of them are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The high-school graduation rate is only 64 percent and fewer than half of students managed to score proficient or above on the 2013 PSSA.”

    Not every school has the ability, nor the resources, to help their students succeed with a standardized test. Students who go to a less financially stable school will likely experience a lower chance of doing well on a standardized test, possibly due to the lack in class offerings and resources.

    Standardized tests need to be individualized; it’s unfair that a student who’s in an average class does worse than a student in an advanced class because they’re testing above their abilities. It’s not fair that someone in a financially unstable school as easy as students in a wealthier school. We have the technology to individualize these tests. Everyone should have an equal opportunity.

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