Standardized Tests: What Do They Measure?

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Einstein once said, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing it’s stupid.” Einstein wasn’t talking about fish climbing trees-  he was talking about high school students being forced to take standardized tests.

With all the AP exams and SOL tests scheduled this month, everyone is thinking about standardized tests. The truth is that standardized tests strangle our creativity and crush free thinking while embracing conformity. Most politicians in America would call that communism. In an education system that varies drastically by state, city, and county, standardized tests do not accurately produce results of a students knowledge or ability to succeed whatsoever. So why are we still being forced to pass these tests in order to graduate?

If you were to rank every state in the United States (including D.C) by the average SAT scores, our nation’s capital, Washington D.C, would come in last place with the lowest average score of 950. However, if you were to rank every state by the percentage of Gold and Silver medals awarded, Washington D.C would rank 8th best in the nation with 17.6% of their schools earning medals (Gold and Silver awards reflect factors like graduation rates and AP exam scores). Schools receiving these awards are providing the best education for their students and producing “the best and the brightest” kids. So, although D.C. has the lowest average SAT scores, they are still producing some of the best students in our nation. 

Entrepreneurs and lawyers have four main things in common: they are successful, creative and incredibly smart. The last thing they have in common? They are both densely concentrated in Washington D.C, the same district that has the lowest average score on the most popular nationwide standardized test.

If standardized tests don’t accurately measure intelligence, success, or creativity then why are we still using them? The truth behind standardized tests is that they train students to conform to one type of “knowledge.” In many schools, lessons are taught with the purpose of preparing students for the standardized tests; not for the student to grow intellectually.

The worst part is that students who do grow intellectually are then punished with low standardized test scores. Life is not a fill in the bubble test and if the purpose of school is to educate the young and prepare us for life, then standardized tests are only doing us a disservice. A more accurate way to gage knowledge would be examining overall test scores throughout our years in school. Maybe, just maybe, that would prevent the U.S from “lagging behind” other countries on the PISA test.