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Yorktown Sentry

Mildly Standardized, Indefinitely Unjust

Photo by Claire DeCroix/SENTRY

Photo by Claire DeCroix/SENTRY

Beth Gentsch, Sentry Staff Reporter

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How do we measure our self-worth? How do we slim down our pride, joys and aspirations onto one measurable scale? There’s only one answer: we can’t.

For some, self-worth might be measured through the amount of dedication put into playing a sport or instrument, a challenging course load in school, or maybe even watching 20 episodes of “Parks and Rec” in one sitting. But it is crucial to remember that our character is determined by many different factors, not just one single trait or talent. Ultimately, self-worth should not be measured by a college entrance exam that you spend a measly four hours on during one Saturday morning of your life.

A few issues exist with having standardized testing be such an important factor in a college application. Somebody who works hard in school, yet does not have the money nor the time for a prep class or tutor may never reach their full “potential” score on a standardized test such as the SAT or the ACT. However, wealthier students have the option to take prep classes, hire private tutors, and more until they get the score they so desire. Is a test really standardized if it allows multiple retakes and vast room for improvement?

It is a fact that students from richer families have higher SAT and ACT test scores. Through allowing retakes, test companies are essentially denying less privileged students their right to an equal and fair chance on the test because of their economic background.  The fact that we live in a world where test scores can make or break a college application, and yet those same test scores have the ability to be “bought”, makes me greatly question the validity of College Board’s fairness policies that are “designed to give every student a standardized, fair, and equitable opportunity to demonstrate college readiness and to prevent anyone from gaining an unfair advantage on SAT tests”; evidently this could not be further from the truth. Essentially, this uneven distribution of “fairness” has the potential create major barriers in our society for those who are not as economically fortunate as others.

And yet improvement is not even guaranteed: somebody who spends hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a prep class or tutor may improve a little bit, while somebody who just took the test again without preparation may improve boundlessly. Most SAT scores are only raised 60-70 points after a retest, and ACT retest scores are often unpredictable. This dilemma raises a question—is it really worth it?

Nobody wants to spend their last years of high school pulling their hair out over a test score. Not only is the second half of high school usually more challenging than the first, but the addition of these tests, along with whatever stress is already present, creates a seemingly perfect mix for a meltdown. It wouldn’t be surprising if the amount of times the average student overheard conversations about test scores directly correlated with the amount of times they had to restrain themselves not to tell the talkers, to put it bluntly, to “shut up.”

Aside from allowing unequal opportunities for success depending on a student’s wealth, another important issue with standardized testing is how much value is placed on a mere four hour period; that is, a fraction of your entire 16 plus years of existence. Maybe you were having a bad morning because your brother left the Nickelback CD in the car again and it wouldn’t stop playing, maybe you have test anxiety, or maybe you just couldn’t get the drum-drum tapping fingers of the kid next to you out of your head. Many of these minor setbacks are bound to happen to us all anyways as part of life. But why should 4 hours on a Saturday morning count almost as much as a challenging course load and good grades that students spend years earning and working towards? A high test score can get you into an excellent school, more scholarship money, even the possibility of better job opportunities upon graduation. A lower test score may, however, deny you entrance into the college you so desperately desired to attend, take away scholarship money that you might have earned, and perhaps lower your self esteem. Which, again, is highly ironic because the less-privileged students who need the scholarship money the most may not have the “prepared” students’ scores; meaning they might not be considered for a scholarship that they otherwise would have been, had they taken a prep class. The idea that a test score has this much impact on your future is slightly frightening and, on the whole, ridiculous. Value should be placed the highest not on our comprehension and math skills, but on our success in the classroom. School is essentially our current job—a solid 35 hours a week where we dedicate our time to improving our intelligence and opening our minds.

Some colleges have already done away with test scores as a mandatory part of an application. While this is only a step in the long road of improvement ahead of us, I have hope that future generations will not have to waste countless hours preparing for a test that is incredibly unjust and unnecessary.

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Mildly Standardized, Indefinitely Unjust