Opinion | Standardized testing needs to be abolished


Valerie Larsen

Illustration by Valerie Larsen

Saskia Teterycz, Opinion Editor

Every year, juniors and seniors in high schools across the country take a test that will determine a path for the rest of their lives. As a result, the big, ugly and oppressive number they receive determines a student’s self-worth, intelligence and their being as a whole. What should be a meaningless score determines where that student will attend college, setting them down a path that could’ve been completely different had it not been for a number. Standardized testing has been weaponized over the past 60 years to separate those with resources who learn to outsmart the tests from those who must abide by the system and ultimately get screwed over by it. It is a tool created by white people to reinforce and maintain white supremacy, ensuring wealthy white children the necessary access to higher education. Standardized testing has been developed as a means to divide, humiliate and reinforce racism and inequality in modern day America, and it needs to be abolished. 

To begin with, standardized tests do not even accurately express how a student will perform in college. Shawna De La Rosa writes for Education Dive that “there was no correlation between ACT score and college graduation rate at some schools, and researchers also found in some schools that higher ACT scores resulted in lower graduation rates.” De La Rosa continues by explaining that “the researchers said the results of the study run contrary to the assumption that standardized test scores are reliable, neutral indicators of success and that the findings suggest grades are powerful gauges in determining college readiness.” Even after students spend thousands of dollars on standardized tests to get a good score, they can’t buy their performance in college. Work ethic, GPA and preparation in the classroom are significantly more accurate at determining how a student will do in higher education and in determining graduation rates. If universities want an accurate way to determine who will succeed in their incoming class, a personal essay will do far more than a standardized score. If a child does well on a test, this is still no indication that they will succeed in college. With that being said, standardized tests are still being used to determine a student’s value.

The vast majority of people who have considerably more money and resources will be able to perform well on standardized tests. “But critics say SAT and ACT results follow a pattern of all standardized test scores: Kids from poor families do worse than kids with more money. Wealthy parents can provide benefits that many poor families can’t, such as tutors, learning opportunities, the best medical care and schools with ample resources,” writes Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post. When students have the means to pay a tutor a few hundred dollars a week on test preparation, they’re bound to perform better. Tutors are hired to teach wealthy kids the way the test works. When poor and lower-income students are unable to pay for these tips and tricks, how could they possibly be expected to perform well on a rigged test? Furthermore, other outside factors contribute greatly to a student’s inability to perform well. Family life, location and environmental issues impact the test scores immensely.

Standardized testing has racist roots that are present to this day. “At 100-years-young this year, standardized tests have come to literally embody the American doors of opportunity, admitting and barring people from the highest ranked schools, colleges, graduate schools, professions, and jobs. Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black minds and legally exclude their bodies.” writes Ibram Kendi in his article Why the Academic Achievement Gap is a Racist Idea. Bias in testing again relates to the lack of money and access to test preparation in lower income and predominantly Black communities as well as centering the very questions of the test itself in white culture. The standardized testing cycle is a vicious one, only allowing privileged students access to higher education. 

The complete eradication of standardized testing is imperative, along with the test prep industry and companies such as the College Board and ACT, which monopolize the testing field. The bottom line is testing means money and access; money to afford a tutor, money to access that tutoring company, money to pay for the test and money to access that test. In the COVID-19 pandemic, testing sights were held hours away from major cities. Only students with access to a car, or a parent that can take time off work to take them to a testing site, had the opportunity to take these tests. Looking at standardized testing more broadly, The Atlantic writer Meredith Broussard notes in her article that in Philadelphia, “fewer than half of students managed to score proficient or above on the 2013 PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment).” This statistic is only from one city in the US but still serves as an indicator of how so many low-income students are unable to perform well on standardized tests. 

The first step ETHS needs to take as a school is discontinuing the requirement of the SAT. Taking one small step within our state can influence the rest of the nation. And, hopefully, as more universities and higher education institutions start to realize the inequitable and racist practices of testing and abolish the use of test scores in the college admissions process, we can move toward a more accessible education for all students regardless of race or income.