You walk into the room. Your parents have signed you up to be consumed by the horror and you have been expecting it for a month, but you know you will still be unprepared for the destructive force that awaits you.
As you make your way over to your desk, there lies the Beast, the all-powerful terror, the Scantron sheet.
Over the past decades, schools across the United States have used standardized testing to measure the capabilities of their students. These standardized tests also play a big role in college admission and scholarship availability. However, many believe that standardized testing is outdated and should not be used so heavily in evaluating the future of America's youth.
Standardized tests are unnecessary because they rarely show what we don't already know. Ask any teacher, and she can tell you which students can read and write. That telling usually comes in the form of letter grades or evaluations that break down progress on skills. All of these are much more useful than standardized testing.
Suppose a great student has a bad day taking a big test. He gets a low score on the test, which wouldn't reflect correctly on his actual academic abilities. One simple grade sent to the student's prospective universities would potentially ruin his admission chances, a grade that wouldn't even indicate what the student could offer to the university.
Likewise, if a student scores well on a test, then it is assumed that he knows the material. However, this may not be true at all. The student may have simply memorized the fact or formula or trick necessary to do well on the test. (Some students are naturally gifted in taking standardized tests, others are not.)
Some proponents of standardized testing say that tests are inclusive and non-discriminatory because they ensure content is equivalent for all students. However, standardized tests favor those who have socio-economic advantages. Test companies (a multi-billion dollar-per-year industry) not only manufacture the tests, they also manufacture the courses and programs that can be taken to "prepare for the test."
If you have the money, you can even get special tutors that will help you do well on a test. If you don't have the money, and your school is in a low socioeconomic area that gets less funding than rich suburban schools, then you're not getting the same preparation as others do.
Other proponents of standardized testing claim that "teaching to the test" (which many people consider to be bad thing) can be a good thing because it focuses on essential content and skills, eliminates time-wasting activities that don't produce learning gains, and motivates students to excel. Because so much emphasis is placed on standardized test results these days, teachers are spending more and more time "teaching to the test."
If there is something that is interesting, compelling, useful, or otherwise favorable to the development of a student's understanding of the world, but it is not going to be on the standardized test, then there really isn't any incentive to cover this material. Instead, most of classroom time consists of either taking the tests or preparing for the tests, and this shuts out the possibility of learning anything new or important.
Finally, education is supposed to help you in the real world. Standardized testing occurs in an artificial learning environment. They're timed, you can't talk to a fellow student, you can't ask questions, you can't use references or learning devices, you can't get up and move around. How often does the real world look like this? Prisons come to mind. And yet, even the most hard-headed conservative will say that education must prepare students for "the real world." Clearly standardized testing doesn't do this.
All of these reasons show why standardized testing does not prepare students for the real world. Education is supposed to be preparing us for the challenges and the problems that we will face when we enter the workforce, but how is standardized testing doing that? To be productive members of society is to thrive in our current world. And we cannot do that if we are not equipped with the skills and the tools to do so.