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  • Writer's pictureCorinne Coleman

Test Scores and Individual Competency

Imagine sitting in a crowded windowless classroom that is more than likely too hot or too cold. You look up at the time and realize you will be in this room, taking a test for the next 4 hours surrounded by strangers. This test determines whether the next phase of your life will be at college or flipping burgers at McDonald’s. The last 12 years of your academic existence filled with countless mandated standardized tests have prepared you for this very moment. Suddenly the anxiety of it all is overwhelming you. There is now 1 hour left; you are stuck on the math section, which is only a reminder of how horrible you have always been with number crunching. You feel your dream of going to college fading away with every answer you bubble in with your No. 2 pencil.

That was just one scenario, but there are dozens more. Standardized testing can be a challenge for many students for several reasons. However, whether people like it or not, standardized tests play a significant role in educational development and progression around the world. In the United States, these tests are administered and scored in a predetermined manner and designed to measure one’s aptitude or achievement. Standardized aptitude test, like the SAT-1, measures how well students are likely to perform in college or a subsequent educational setting. Achievement tests evaluate subjects and grade-level specific knowledge as well as the effectiveness of a school. However, these tests may not be the most accurate way to indicate an individual’s competency.

The No Child Left Behind Act enacted by Congress in 2002, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; it contained Title I stipulations applying to disadvantaged students. By 2015,

the act updated to Every Student Succeeds Act requiring every third through eighth-grader to take a calibrated state standardized test. A report published in the same year showed that upon graduating from high school, the average student would have taken 112 tests since kindergarten. A Pew Research study, also from the same year, revealed that the United States is nowhere near the top 15 for math, reading, or science in comparison to 71 countries. Instead, the U.S. ranks somewhere in the middle despite the number of tests students are given.

In Finland, Japan, and China, all countries found in the top 15 of the Pew Research study; they require their students to focus on 1 test that determines their future. Finland has its students take the Matriculation Exam during their senior year of high school. According to the study, the country was 5th in both science and reading, and 10th in math. Japan’s standardized test determines whether students will get into high school. They rank 2nd in science, 8th in reading, and 5th in math.

China’s test determines whether or not the student will go to college as well as their earning potential. The test is 12 hours long and evaluates the student’s competency in Chinese, English, and math. Students can choose either science or humanities as their last area of evaluation. While the test is taking place, construction halts, ambulances are on stand-by, and students with high scores receive public praise. China ranks as 9th for science, and 2nd for both reading and math.

The amount of pressure placed on U.S. students to successfully compete on the world’s stage as far as education is concerned is tremendous. In comparison to other countries, the test-taking pressure is just as more considerable. However, the difference is that they reveal positive results. Maybe the U.S. should consider testing less, and the results may differ. Nevertheless, there are several factors, such as income level, learning disabilities, and how students learn that contribute to whether or not a student successfully passes their test. Also, for students looking to attend college, the U.S. is the only country that factors in both the SAT-1 and the student’s grade point average. The academic disparities that already exist in the U.S., combined with the number of tests given along with the pressure to succeed, make it challenging to evaluate a student’s competency in a particular subject. If the testing field were more level across the board, maybe standardized tests would depict a more accurate picture of an individual’s competency.

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