Dear Next President,
If the pilot of the plane on which you were flying were to tell you that that plane was too crude to be used, wouldn’t you be worried and wondering why it was still in use? So why when the inventor of standardized tests, Alfred Binet, says that, “these tests are too crude to be used and should be abandoned,” why do we just keep on using them? Allowing a crude invention of the early 1900’s to hinder the learning of America’s youth who are the future of this great country is a travesty. There are many issues with these tests that need to be addressed. Not only do these tests lack assessment of essential skills that future employers might want, they also encourage extreme uniformity allowing for little uniqueness of thought across the many spectra of the country’s student body, as well as taking away time that teachers could be further enriching student learning instead of watching students test. I believe that this means of assessment is in desperate need of reform.
If you were the admissions counselor at a university using today’s tests, you could easily overlook someone with a low overall score on their SAT or ACT. However, if we were able to test for aspects of character as well as skills in areas other than the 4 core subjects, we could avoid letting students who are poor test takers fall through the cracks of higher education and allow them as fair an opportunity as their peers to go to college and graduate with a diploma. Otherwise only people who perform well on one test on one day are afforded the opportunity to go to college and get a high paying job. While many people may believe that being the best and the brightest means you are extremely smart, to be bright you must also be able to think creatively and this skill is still not being tested by today's tests. My suggestions to fix this issue (which I well understand would take immense time and planning) are as follows. Firstly I believe that we need to put more emphasis on assessment of character and skills outside of the core subjects. Perhaps having teachers assess these traits and provide the assessment with college applications for all students would be a good place to start. Secondly I believe that testing should take less time and be done over a longer period of time. Perhaps allowing a unit test to become more like the current standardized versions would not only allow for more learning time but also alleviate stress on students.
The definition of standardized testing is, “a test whose reliability has been established by obtaining an average score of a significantly large number of individuals for use as a standard of comparison.” Why in this world where from a young age people tell you be unique or to be your own person do they then say, “now go take this test that your future depends on and do it just like everyone else.” This kind of testing undermines the development of uniqueness of thought and essentially makes kids think that there can only be one answer and for so many of today’s strong willed youth this is like trying to shove a square peg in a round whole. So instead of forcing kids to understand the content just like everyone else and test just like everyone else, I believe that test should be personalized to the student in a way that would allow them to be the best person they can be. This is not necessarily to make it easier on one student than another, which would take away the meaning of the testing, but to allow students multiple choices in formats such as computerized, spoken, or in paper and pencil format but still taking the same test so that students who, for example, have a hard time with sitting in a class and bubbling answers have a better option that could allow them to do better than they may have otherwise while still meeting the standard. Many people will look to the changes in format as a means of allowing the test to be made too easy, but if the questions are still the same, then the format won't make a difference.
In conclusion, I thank you for reading my letter and hope that my ideas for reform could be heard.
Armstrong , Thomas. “Thomas Armstrong.” ASCD EDge, edge.ascd.org/blogpost/15-reasons-why-standardized-tests-are-problematic.
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