Apr 292002
Authors: Kat Mackenzie

We’ve all had to fill in those little bubbles with a #2 pencil for hours on end; yet only a small portion of twisted individuals actually enjoys taking standardized tests. From the Iowa Test of Basic Sills in grade school, to the ACT and SAT in high school, there is no doubt that standardized tests have followed us throughout our school career. These standardized tests affect all of us, either directly now as students, or as future parents and teachers.

You, as college students, know the weight institutions put on your performance on the SAT and ACT. Do you think it’s fair that a grade on one test should determine your acceptance into college or graduate school?

These tests are bad, not only because we have to spend hours filling in tiny bubbles, but also because they’re not an accurate measurement of teaching ability or a student’s knowledge.

Despite the fact that these tests are quick, easy to administer and cheap, they are unfortunately also gender, racially and economically biased. Standardized tests are quick because they assume all people learn by the same method of teaching, and can be tested in the same manner.

“We are more than just a number,” said computer science major, Eli Palmer. “And should be treated with the respect and compassion we deserve.”

These tests put low-income students and minorities at a disadvantage. They are written by middle-income, white men who produce tests that measure the knowledge and experiences valued by middle class, white men.

To spread out scores, test writers often produce questions that tap into knowledge gained outside of school. Yet, all the standardized tests I’ve taken haven’t included questions regarding breakdancing, tagging or Japanese Tea Ceremonies.

Author Barbara Miner described a section on a standardized test devoted to “world” history, in which 45 of the 57 questions on it referred to Europe, and only 12 were about the rest of the world. Poor scores due to biases are very detrimental to not only the self-esteems of students, parents and teachers, but also to the funding these schools receive, or in this case, don’t receive. It’s ridiculous to rely on biased tests to close the gap between rich and poor.

Although women score lower on the SAT, women have higher grades in both high school and in their first year in college then males. Between 60 percent and 65 percent of the time, scholarships go to men because of their higher scores on just one test, while women earn higher grades over a 4 year period.

Does this seem a little unfair to you, ladies?

The concept of standardization is leaking into our classrooms as well as our tests. “Teaching to the test” rather than teaching for genuine learning is what standardized tests are making schools do. When funding and time is devoted to test preparation, other areas of the curriculum are affected. In many instances, teachers are forsaking cultural studies and lessons in art and music in an attempt to save time for test prep.

All these tests do is reinforce memorization of facts and formulas instead of promoting active, critical thinking. Standardized tests do not measure creativity or problem-solving abilities. A student’s ability to learn or understand information relative to what they are taught is not measured by these tests.

Standardized tests assume students’ knowledge can fit neatly on a bubble sheet. This one-size-fits-all approach to testing ignores the way economic circumstance along with cultural differences interact with achievement.

Non-biased, shmon-biased, if we are to call our country a “melting pot,” shouldn’t we create tests that judge all students fairly?

Kat Mackenzie is a senior majoring in psychology.

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