Are Standardized Test Scores Reflective of College Readiness?

Looking on the New York Times website, I found this interesting article. The key issues presented revolve around the following question: Are standardized test scores an accurate reflection of college readiness? National scores are low among high school students, in fact the article states that “[f]ewer than one in two students [meet] the state’s “college readiness” standards in math and verbal skills on ACT, SAT and TAKS scores in 2010.” Is this a reflection of bad teaching, of bad students, or of bad tests? I would argue the later. 

The problem with these standardized tests is that they aren’t diagnostic enough on their own to determine student achievement in higher education. A low score does not make a bad student. In the article, Pamela Burdman says that a combination of a high school student’s GPA and test scores is more telling of student readiness. I agree with this completely. It’s important to be able to do well on tests build for large groups of people. You have to be if you are going to do well in your entry level college classes. However, these standardized tests do not represent the specific material they have been learning in their classes. Can the student really be punished for not knowing trig when their class specialized in logarithms? How do can teachers teach effectively if they constantly teach for the test? They can’t if they want their student to fit the standardized testing criteria of college preparedness. 

As a final note, where do standardized tests leave the learning disabled? A student who attended my high school came to mind with this question. He suffered from autism, and was not adept at English or the social sciences. But he was one of the most brilliant math students my school had ever seen. If he were denied entrance to a college based on his ACT English scores, wouldn’t the world be missing out due to a technicality?

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts and opinions on this contentious topic. 

~Nick Bonnet


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