“Standardized” Tests.


By Jared Kraham | The Warrior Report

At approximately 12:07 p.m. I began the New York State Mathematics A Regents Exam. I was in the Chenango Valley High School gymnasium with roughly 1/2 of the Class of 2009, looking around to see the expression on some of the faces. Some had the look of boredom, a handful seemed surprised and stupefied, while still most looked at the clock and likely thought “only 119 more minutes.”

Because of this test’s fairness to every student, three hours was allowed to answer thirty-nine questions, and a minimum of two hours sitting time had to be devoted. Most in the room finished in about an hour. All this “free time” allowed me to think about this situation I found myself in. I was stuck in this place with an answer sheet, a calculator, and all the answers in my head.

I had a very similar experience this past November, taking the SAT. Then, it seemed like my hours of fiddling with the SAT’s ScanTron were for a better cause. It was about college, not a factoid in the Press & Sun-Bulletin displaying different school’s scores. I know, I know, I’m only a sophomore, why take the SAT? I figured that for the small admission fee I could get a chance to experience the test before it really mattered. I scored a 610 on Critical Reading, 580 on Math, and 590 on Writing with a old-style score of 1190/1600, and a new-style score of 1780/2400. To any Princeton scholar, those scores are respectable and OK, but from my experiences with the reaction from students at Chenango Valley, some people would die for these scores. Did I really do that good? I checked out the scores, and just based on that, some colleges would love to have me.

My sister (Chenango Valley Class of 2002) scored a 1430 (old-style), very much above average for any student. She ended up at one of the best liberal arts schools in the country, Middlebury College in Vermont. I then asked myself an important question. Does how well someone does on tests have the most impact on what colleges see when reading an application? Yes.

From my experiences, roughly about 20-70% of all the report card grades both at Chenango Valley High School, and Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, IL are made up from tests and quizzes. So testing has the biggest refection of what has been “learned” on a high school transcript. If Student A “learned” 80% of the material, and student be “learned” 95% of the material, which student would a college more like to see roaming their campus?

Schools have to use tests to “standardize” their teaching practices, even though it’s believed more and more today that tests might not be the best tool to judge the amount of material learned by a single student. One good thing that standardized tests have done is to tell us that white, suburban, American kids are smarter than black, inner-city, American kids year after year. Did you miss it? Let’s review that sentence: “One good thing that standardized tests have done is to tell us that white, suburban, American kids are smarter than black, inner-city, American kids year after year.”

This kind of wide-range testing does work, in extreme circumstances. Year after year, state test scores from schools in Bronx, New York are usually considerably lower than those in say, the Binghamton region. This can give a comparison with big differences, but that’s about it. However, if Chenango Valley scores a three-point average higher in the 2007 Math A Regents than Chenango Forks, it doesn’t mean that CV is the better school academically. Someone at Chenango Forks could have had a bad day, sneezed, forgot a formula, or…didn’t learn as much?

I’ll let you decide.

1 Comment

  1. I HATE those tests. I know it’s only gonna get worse now that I am in HS.

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