The case for (and against) standardized testing

Educators and students question the tests’ merit


Emma Minnick, Editor

Standardized testing has been an integral part of the education system for years. Tests such as the SATs, ACTs, and ASVABs are dreaded by students and teachers alike. But why did these tests come to be? Does standardized testing hold any merit? The conversation surrounding these tests is an interesting one.

Standardized tests were first introduced in 1845 by educator Horace Mann. His initial idea was to improve the education system by analyzing the way children learned through comprehensive exams. These tests did not catch on until the early twentieth century, with schools adopting military style tests to measure academic ability. Eventually these tests would evolve into the notorious SATs in 1920. Through the years, standardized testing became more commonplace, but did not become mandatory until 1994. Evidently, the concept of standardized tests has persisted through the years. But one question lingers: why?

Standardized tests are administered for a variety of reasons, from data collection to college preparation. State tests such as Pennsylvania’s PSSAs are the center of criticism due to their affects on teachers. In fact, state testing often has more bearing on teachers than on their pupils. Because test performance can influence school funding, many teachers feel pressure to acquaint their students with these tests. “Teachers often feel obligated to set aside other subjects for days, weeks, or even months at a time in order to devote themselves to boosting students’ test scores,” says author Alfie Kohn. These tests seem to cause strain on educators, but what about students?

The topic of standardized testing is a contentious one when it comes to students. While some researchers say these tests are beneficial, others disagree. Matthew Pietrafetta, PhD and Founder of Academic Approach, says, “…the tests create gravitational pull toward higher achievement.” The SATs in particular may indicate how a student will perform in their first years of college. However, some worry if standardized tests really judge a student’s aptitude. In fact, seventy percent of educators do not approve of standardized testing.

Tests such as the SAT, ACT, and state level exams are clearly a contentious topic among pupils and educators alike. But do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? As the attitude towards standardized testing changes, rules and regulations will as well, and the future of American education seems uncertain.