Saying its college admission exams do not focus enough on the important academic skills, the College Board announced a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong, cutting obscure vocabulary words and making the essay optional. 

The changes are extensive: The SAT’s rarefied vocabulary challenges will be replaced by words that are common in college courses, like “empirical” and “synthesis.” The math questions, now scattered across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections.

The new SAT will not quell all criticism of standardized tests. Critics have long pointed out  that high school grades are a better predictor of college success than standardized test scores. More colleges have in recent years become “test optional,” allowing students to forgo the exams and submit their grades, transcripts and perhaps a graded paper.

Why Standardized Testing?

Standardized testing is something that has been a part of my life since I entered elementary school. It has become so engrained in schooling, that most cannot imagine school without standardized testing. What I wanted to look at is what happens with the results of these tests? Many teacher evaluations are based off the scores that students receive on these tests and this leads to cheating scandals. Teachers change the student’s answers on the tests to make themselves receive higher evaluations. These high evaluations lead to higher merit and higher pay. I wanted to examine if this was actually the most effective way of evaluating teachers. Studies show that teachers who received high evaluations taught students who had higher than average test scores prior to entering their classrooms, and they taught fewer minority or economically disadvantaged students. This could mean that better teachers go to schools with better students, or that these evaluations are simply influenced by the sample of students the teacher teachers. A teacher who teaches an advanced placement class is bound to have higher test scores than a teacher teaching a college prep class, does this mean that the college prep teacher is less qualified as a teacher? I also wanted to examine the pros and cons of standardized testing in general. Does it cause teachers to simply teach to the test, eliminating creative thought and actual learning? Replacing it with regurgitated, memorized facts? Is there a way around standardized testing? Because schools do need to be held accountable for student’s performance, but is there a better way to do that without using standardized tests? Or is there a way to improve the tests to put learning back in teaching?