Defined by a Score

Courtesy of

Emma Groves, Staff Writer

In a world of competition, students are taught from a young age that they must always achieve excellence on any task set before them as it could alter their futures. Standardized testing plays a leading role in this shameful play that America puts on for its youth. While standardized testing has its benefits, its consequences far outweigh them.

The damaging effects of standardized testing can be seen through the emotional and mental strains it puts on students. Thomas Armstrong states that “Some kids do well with a certain level of stress. Other students fold. So, again, there isn’t a level playing field. Brain research suggests that too much stress is psychologically and physically harmful. And when stress becomes overwhelming, the brain shifts into a “fight or flight” response, where it is impossible to engage in the higher-order thinking processes that are necessary to respond correctly to the standardized test questions.” These levels of strain and stress can also make it hard to focus in class as the teachers are constantly “teaching the test” in order to improve performance, but ultimately, this leads to more stress as there seems to be a large unattainable cloud looming over the students’ minds.

In addition to this idea of “teaching the test,” since such a cultural emphasis is placed on scoring well on these tests to insure your future, teachers have to spend a greater amount of time teaching the test than teaching the curriculum. Bari Walsh, senior editor of Usable Knowledge, claims, “The pressure to raise test scores has become so strong that testing often degrades instruction rather than improving it. Many parents have encountered this — large amounts of teaching time lost to test prep that is boring, or worse.” With this lost time, students suffer more than they gain from time in the classroom.

These tests also do not leave room for fair scoring as they “evaluate [a] student’s performance without considering external factors” and they “only consider a single test performance upon evaluation” according to Grade Power Learning. “Standardized tests don’t consider factors like test anxiety, home life, or the fact that some kids are extremely bright but just don’t test well,” claims Grade Power Learning. “It does not consider how much a student has grown over the course of the year. This can be a disservice to teachers who worked to help their students grow, and students who put in their best effort to improve but performed poorly on one test.” With this limited view of a student, how can a scantron possibly tell a computer that a student needs to retake a year’s worth of math because their mom and dad stayed up late arguing again so the child was tired that morning, because the child has high test anxiety although they know the curriculum better than anyone, or because the child behind them wouldn’t quit bouncing their shoe or tapping their pencil?

Every student has the potential for greatness in life, but with an already competitive society intermingled with the impenetrable doom of testing throughout their school careers, how can they possibly be expected to achieve greatness when they are only defined by their test scores?