STANDARDIZED TESTING + OUR FLAWED EDUCATION SYSTEM

As much as we hate to admit it, my classmates and I live in a pretty competitive environment. I know so many people that chose their grades over their health. I won’t deny staying up past midnight to finish an assignment of a project, but I also don’t do it every night. It makes me sad that for 4 years of my life, I will take courses I have minimal interest in, struggle to keep my grades up, and then all my hard work will be forgotten once I’m studying what I actually want to study.

In fact, even in the college application process, my struggles won’t be acknowledged. Standardized testing plays an important role in whether I will get accepted or not. Unlike most of my classmates, I don’t have the means to hire a private tutor to help be get a 34-36 on the ACT, and I don’t can’t a tutor to help me get 7s in all my IB courses. Thankfully, I  go to a good school, so I’ve covered most of the material in the SAT/ACTs, and all I really have to go over is timing, but there’s a greater issue at hand.

As a junior, going into my senior year, I have been looking at schools, their acceptance rates, and average ACT scores. What I noticed is that most schools are looking for ACT scores above a 25, and most commonly in the range of 29-36. However, the national average is a 21. I understand that many other factors affect whether a student gets accepted into a school, but how is this testing format fair low-income students, and even middle- class students. Moreover, how is our education system in America fair?

From my understanding, public schools in the United States are funded by local taxes. So in a region with wealthier families, there is a larger tax revenue, therefore, the schools in this area have a larger ability to have better programs, teachers, and equipment. In addition, these wealthier families are more likely to be able to pay for tutors or prep courses for standardized tests, which from my own experience, are between $1000- $2000 or $200 dollars an hour for a private tutor.

Meanwhile, children in relative or absolute poverty don’t have the same opportunities, to begin with, because the schools in their neighborhoods or counties receive less funding. And, their families have a smaller ability to pay for additional help. Even though there are after school programs that will help students like these for free, sometimes these kids are needed at home to help around the house, or it’s just not safe to be out late at night.

There’s a disparity in the opportunities the children of America get because of the way we are organized economically and politically. I looked up whether what I had heard on schools and tax distribution was true, and I found this article on NPR about a study done in Chicago. If you’ve never heard of this, I think this article does a good job of putting things into perspective. Click here to read it!

The reason I started thinking about tax distribution and public schools is that I grew up in a poor and pretty dangerous neighborhood, My mom always tried to get me into the best schools she could. She would apply to lottery programs so I could go to a school in a different ward, and later on, she decided to invest financially so I could go to a private school. Thankfully, I was awarded a spot at my current school with a generous amount of financial aid. I have always been consistent and gotten average grades.

In high school, I have always been consistent and gotten average grades. I will admit, I like to procrastinate and I don’t always study, so I could to better than I currently am. But, sometimes I ask myself, “What would by grade be in this class if I had a tutor?” I know several kids in my grade that have a tutor for more than half of their classes, and they have a tutor for standardized testing or have done a prep course, but I have never done or had either. So are grades at schools like mine, where there are children with financial aid and people that are filthy rich, an accurate reflection of all their student’s full capacities? Comparing the grades of these students would not be fair!

An even greater injustice is comparing the scores, grades, and abilities of students at private schools, or wealthier regions, to students in poorer regions because they have not had the same opportunities. I understand the college is harder than high school, and if a student isn’t successful in high school, they have a smaller chance of being successful in college. Grades are a way of measuring a student’s success so it’s inevitable to not compare students grades in the college application process. But, why don’t we work towards changing the system so that more students have opportunities to succeed? In addition, the testing format should change.

In addition, the testing format should change. After talking with friends and classmates, even teachers about this, many of us have agreed that certain tests are more of a test of how well someone can memorize, and how well someone works under pressure, rather than their actual knowledge. At my school, like many others, students are allowed to have extra time. According to some teachers, the testing to get approved for extra time is expensive. Once again, this is another example of the injustices to due varying economic statuses.

The extra time also applies to students taking a standardized test, and many people like to consider these test about endurance, and test-taking skills than actual knowledge. I agree with this. Depending on the questions on the test, and what concepts they cover, a student without prep will do better or worse, depending on their comfort with different topics. These students don’t have the ability to show their full capabilities. So here come the questions and train of thought that started this whole rant. I that the only reason colleges want higher average ACT/SAT scores is because it makes them look better, and more prestigious thus attracting more students, and money to improve their facilities and programs. If this is true, how do so many colleges expect for their prospective students to get high scores when the average is a 21? As a society, aren’t we creating a type of poverty trap? I’ve noticed that certain universities hold more prestige, and I feel as though a graduate from Yale would be treated better than a graduate from a Loyola school or a state school. If two people with the same experiences and skills applied for a job, would the person that graduated from the more prestigious school get the job? Finally, why is there such a stigma about going to a state school versus an Ivy League or another type of selective school? In the end, won’t you receive a diploma granting the same acknowledgment?

I’m gonna end this here because this is where my train of thought starts to get TOO personal. If you read all the way up to here, thanks for sticking around! Hopefully, this made sense… I know I went around in circles, but I had a lot of these thoughts floating around in my head, and I just wanted to rant about it/ get it out. Once again thanks for sticking around!

 

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