Is Standardized Testing Taken Too Seriously?

From the OAT, to the OAA, to the OGT, to the PARCC


Photo Courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel

Jaylin Paschal, Editor-in-Chief

On my journey to understand the purpose and effectiveness of standardized tests, I reached out to many teachers for both facts and their opinions. Most of the teachers I asked decided not to do the interview, out of fear of consequences for talking about the subject. Others asked to be quoted anonymously.


I’ve been taking standardized tests for as long as I can remember. There’s always been a lot of pressure on me to do well. This pressure has come from teachers, parents, and classmates. I felt obligated to score “advanced, and there was a tremendous amount of stress during testing week, even as a nine-year-old.

Aside from tests like the ACT and SAT, I am virtually done with big, scary tests. The effects of it, however, are still present, and they are clear even among upperclassmen who no longer take the assessments. I still have peers who see the high school world in terms of test scores. They separate the “advanced,” from the “accelerated” from the “proficient” and so on. An imaginary hierarchy based on labels assigned to us after testing has proven to be extremely detrimental on the psyche and self esteem of students, as worth is often related to scores in school systems.

“I think standardized testing breeds a false sense of superiority along with a false sense of inferiority,”  said junior Maggie Laing.

From what I’ve seen, both teachers and students have began associating scores like “advanced” and “accelerated” with the “smart” and “hardworking” students, and associating the lower scores with students of opposite qualities.

“I think the tests can have both positive and negative effects on students’ confidence,” said a Northmont teacher who wished to remain anonymous.

This hierarchy is especially senseless when considering the fact that the tests are not true measures of intelligence. Some students are just particularly good test takers. Others are particularly bad at testing, and find testing weeks to be disastrous. However, their low scores do not mean that they are incapable of success or progression.

“Do you want the auto mechanic that can pass a test, or the auto mechanic that can actually fix your car?” said another Northmont teacher.

Some suggest that standardized tests provide the state with a system of fairly measuring and comparing students. However, some who suffer from the tests tend to be more artistically, musically, or athletically inclined and feel stressed under the pressure to showcase academic capabilities. Providing different people, with different strengths, weaknesses, and abilities, with the exact same test and  comparing them based on scores is in no way fair.

Along with being inaccurate measures of abilities, the tests are also extremely time consuming. During testing instruction time is lost by the hours, and even more time is lost to prep and review. Instead of learning new material and advancing in the curriculum, students are subjected to “teaching to the test” methods.

According to studies, standardized tests are proving to be beneficial and are recording growth within schools. But are they ultimately taking away from the learning experience? After all, these tests only represent a portion of what makes schooling meaningful.

“The tests are definitely very important, but there are skills and virtues that they don’t measure,” said a third Northmont teacher, “Like creativity or leadership or empathy.”

At some point we will have to ask ourselves if the standardized testing is worth the mental harm, stress, time, and energy that it costs. We will have to decide if they are more important than instruction time. We will have to decide if they’re more important than confidence. As of now, I’d say standardized testing does as much harm as good. We will have to develop a method of testing that does more good and less harm. I think the fact that even elementary school students come home crying in fear that they did not score well says a lot about the value that we place on the tests and the messages that we send.

“The state puts too much emphasis on standardized tests, and schools try to stress that importance to be helpful, but ultimately it freaks kids out” said junior Seth Wass.

Obviously standardized tests aren’t going anywhere, but the progress of students can certainly be measured in ways that are both more accurate and sensible. Unfortunately, testing will probably not change for the better any time soon and will continue to be a large part of the American student’s life.

“You’re never done testing. You test in elementary school. You test in middle school. You take the OGTs. You’ll test in college. It never ends, and there’s always just as much of an emphasis,” said Northmont teacher.

Standardized tests have become the standard.