Dear Future President,
Individualism and personal growth are two things citizens of the United States of America strive for. We preach to our youth to be leaders not followers, to be their own human in a sea of robots. However we also drown our youth with overwhelming standardized tests and generalized exams. Our youth are told that the scores you achieve, determine the outcome of the rest of your life. In what way is that shaping the upcoming adults of our nation? These conventional examinations taken by all students in America (SAT and/or ACT) are highly hypocritical of the announced goals of public education.
Students are told to be “different” and to “stand out”, yet also be able to take the same test and acquire an exemplary score. The system in place is similar to lining up a goldfish, an elephant, a giraffe, and a monkey and telling them to climb a tree for a grade. If we are told to be unique, we expect to be treated uniquely.
I am a 12th grade student in the U.S. public education system. Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of being myself and thinking for myself. As I matured I realized that my schooling did not particularly agree with my parents ideals. I was given tests like the MEAP and the M-STEP and told to understand concepts I had never heard. I remember getting my MEAP score back and realizing I failed the math portion, I was devastated but understanding. I knew I was not fond of math and needed to work a little harder at it. However when my math teacher saw my score she was very unhappy and disappointed in my lack of understanding. This confused me to no end: I did not understand how someone could expect excellence in every subject from just one person. I now recognize that my parents did not prepare me for the expectations of public education. Taking the SAT I felt as if I were in a social experiment and at any moment someone would step in and tell us that the tests were fake and give us our own tests, specific to our learning style and preferred subjects. This never happened, I was expected to take a timed test with five different subject sections and perform well on every one of them.
According to researchers Baker, Herman and Shepard, through the years 1989-1990, found that, contradictory to the positive purpose of standardized testing for the progress of student education it actually seems to “trivialize the learning and instructional process, distort curricula, and usurp valuable instructional time”(Pg 20, The Effects of Standardized Testing on Teaching and Schools). Public schools, accepting both “advantaged” and “disadvantaged” students, are at a greater risk for these “adverse effects” of standardized tests. These researchers and their colleagues’ ideas posed many questions in the current day standardized testing methods. Some of these questions include, “Are there differences in test effects and meaning between schools serving lower SES (disadvantaged) students and those serving more advantaged students?” (Pg 20, The Effects of Standardized Testing on Teaching and Schools). From this question and ones like it a study was conducted using survey methodology, augmented by interviews, to answer them. They compared the testing and education practices of the schools interviewed to see if test scores affected the productivity of school curricula and student success. They found that indeed did the tests negatively affected the process of learning in every public school interviewed.
I understand there is a purpose for the standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. These tests are made to capture the intelligence of a student through, minimal time and standard curricula questions on concepts learned in all levels of education. However, this purpose takes away so much from the students of our current day society. Some them will not have the same opportunities as others because of their inability to take a timed test, with no substance or individualized content. This is no way to see the intelligence of every single student, if it were, we would have a greater abundance of people in college and people with jobs.
Cookie cutters are meant to make everything the same. Public education is the pathway to individuality and cookie cutter tests do not allow for such things. All I ask of you is to think about the youth of your country and how strange and terrifying it would be if they all thought the same, learned the same, and had the same opinions. What kind of world would that be?