Standardized Testing: Help or Hindrance

By Karina Rivera – Staff Writer

The process of acquisition and application of knowledge is currently being tested in the youth of America through the American College Test (ACT) and the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT). It is often put into question whether these tests are accurate evaluations of one’s intelligence. The definition of intelligence has no specific mold, but varies according to each individual. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.
In pursuit of a greater understanding of intelligence testing, one can look back to the history of these tests. According to the reading of Victories over Structural Violence by Milton Schwebel,
“Alfred Binet is known as the father of intelligence tests. He, with Theodore Simon, at the request of the minister of education in Paris early in the 20th century, developed the Binet–Simon Intelligence Scale (Binet, 1905/1916). Its purpose was to identify children deficient in age-appropriate knowledge so that they could be given supplemental instruction to help overcome the backwardness. A few years later, when Binet learned that American psychologists were using his test for a diametrically opposite purpose—namely, to give children a score that was fixed and irreversible—he was outraged […] ”
Modern day education systems allow a student to retake the ACT or SAT if they receive a score that is not in alignment with their desired goal. The opportunity to take the test again may be a valid argument that the standardized tests are not “fixed and irreversible” as Binet was opposed to. Upon receiving the results of the ACT or SAT, a student has the chance to learn from their mistakes. If a certain subject was of great difficulty, that student can pursue after school tutoring until the day of the next retake. If vocabulary was the problem, then the student may begin to pick out words from the dictionary and focus on a couple words a day to learn. It is possible that standardized testing truly does measure intelligence. The option of retaking the test shows that even if a student fails the first time, they show their “ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills” in presenting improvement in the next testing results. The option to retake allows the student to show intelligence.
The counter argument could be: students trained for standardized testing are skilled in regurgitating certain required materials, rather than digesting knowledge that will be later applied to life skills, careers or ways of thinking. Standardized tests have a formula and structure to them, which makes it possible to form ACT and SAT prep classes for high school students. A student’s high school education can be turned from learning history, math and reading; to learning history vocabulary, math equations and reading strategies that will be useful to standardized tests. Rather than a rich learning environment, schools can risk becoming training grounds for a test.
The definition of intelligence varies, as does the opinion of standardized testing. Schools may be a rich learning environment teaching students to learn from their mistakes and apply knowledge, or training grounds for regurgitation. Regardless of what one may feel about standardized testing, all must hope, for the sake of the youth of America, that it is more a help than a hindrance.