[Opinion] Standardized Tests do not Measure Intelligence


Jori O'Grady

Standardized tests were established in the mid-1800s as a “fair” way to assess students’ intelligence and abilities across the country. Though it wasn’t till the early 2000s when standardized testing was popularized under the guise as a legitimate measure of student, teacher, school, principal, district, and state academic performance.

Meaning the better your school performed, the more funding your school received. And so the cycle continued, proving your school, your education, is as good as your neighborhood.

The pervasive use of standardized tests is failing the United States, especially less funded schools; however, it is used as a top evaluator of students for colleges.

As of 2000 the US ranked 18th in the world for math In 2015 it dropped to 40th and from 14th to 25th in science and from 15th to 24th in reading.

But standardized tests, and even AP exams, do not measure “college readiness.”

They measure financial stability.  

The SAT test alone costs $64.50  including the essay as well as another $26 registration fee. The ACT costs $62.50. Each individual AP test costs $94.

Even after overcoming these hurdles, there are still more fees needed to be successful.

Most parents spend thousands of dollars on tutoring and test prep courses, and schools select up to date textbooks and resources to simulate standardized SAT, ACT, and AP tests.

For example, this occurs in one of my favorite classes, AP world. Don’t get me wrong, I love my teacher’s in-depth and passionate lectures; however, that’s only around 50% of the class. The other 50% is primarily focused on learning how to take and prepare for the upcoming AP tests. In which we learn how to write a perfect formulaic SAQ, LEQ, and DBQ, and learn and practice how to decipher the overly condescending questions.

So if your family’s income is  $20,000 a year or lower and/or you attend an inner city school, you’re statistically proven by college board’s data to score lower than families that can afford to spend at least $800 on ACT and SAT prep.

By using these tests, colleges aren’t truly looking at students abilities or aptitude, but rather for customers.

Education is no different than a business investment.

The children of the upper class will sit in the Harvard admissions office, anxious, but more than equipped. With 10+ APs (4s and 5s), impressive extracurriculars, and near perfect SAT and ACT scores (with the additional essays,) their success was bought.

In many ways, standardized tests show that college acceptance is nothing more than a price tag. Whether this is done through cheating like in the college admissions scandal or through school test prep, the education system consistently sends the message that education is a privilege, and not a right, which will continue to benefit the wealthy and hurt our country as a whole, because we cannot produce innovators and critical thinkers by promoting a narrow curriculum and drill-like “teaching to take the test.”

It is essential that the United States negates standardized tests, and instead measures students not on memorization, but on aptitude, creativity, problem-solving, engagement, and aspirations rather than having a country educated on regurgitation.