An Institutional Problem

As I was reading Carlton’s post on the “3 Ways that Humans Flourish” I came across an idea. We are so focused on changing high-stakes testing, figuring out a better solution, and trying to create a new environment, but why? There is no way this system is ever going to change.

I know to some of you that sounds incredibly pessimistic, but in reality this is so true because high-stakes testing is not a problem simply because certain companies produce tests. It is bigger than that. It is an institutional problem caused by the fact that colleges and universities base their admission on the score of a high-stakes test. The SAT and ACT are major factors in the college admission game, whether students and factually like to admit that or not. These high-stakes tests play a large role in if a student gets admitted to a certain institution. Why did you want to do well on the SAT? It definitely was not to impress your teachers, it was because you wanted to get into a certain college and if you wanted to do that you needed to attain a certain score on that test. There is no way around that. This institutional ritual of the SAT and ACT have been so solidly ingrained in American society it would be hard to erase.

Why would we ask teachers of lower grades to get rid of these high-stakes tests when at the end of the day no matter what, students will have to buy into the system to be admitted in a place of higher learning. Students need this degree from this institution to get a job and become “successful” in life. There is literally no way around testing in America.

There are schools that are trying to combat this idea, like Wake Forest. You do not have to submit a test score for their application, but it is an option. It can still matter if you want it to. This is still placing an emphasis on the test score without even trying to. Also, Wake Forest has an extensive application, which includes questions about what you would use to teach a college class, the three last books that you have read, and other tedious questions that take up a long time to answer to really “get to know” the applicant.

If this institutional emphasis on high-stakes testing does not change there is no way that high-stakes testing will change for the lower grades in America. These tests are simply preparing students for their lives later on. If we continue to tell students that their scores matter to get into a place of higher learning there is no way that they will buy into the idea that testing does not matter when they are younger. To change the system as a whole we must change the way we think about testing at every level. Do bigger standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT really measure intelligence better than state level exams? Why are they allowed to have a greater effect of the outcome of a child’s education process.

We must take a step back and look at the big picture.



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3 Responses to An Institutional Problem

  1. cerouse2015 says:

    What a great post. Something my roommate always says is don’t complain about something if you do not have a solution to fix the problem. Her statement really appears to resonate with testing. We talked so much about the problems with testing but nobody ever offers a clear solution to fix it. I think that changing how colleges look at applicants, such as Wake Forest, is a great way to try and combat the testing issues in the education system.


  2. marrisarose says:

    Wow! This is such an interesting post. We always talk about high stakes testing in primary school but conversations never really center around testing into colleges and even graduate programs. This is very similar to the way the conversation focuses on reading. There is such a strong emphasis on reading education in lower grades but we fail to discuss reading for adolescents. I also liked the example you used of Wake Forest and how they evaluate incoming students. Really great post!


  3. khjinni says:

    I think you’re right on point. The issue of testing definitely trickles down from high-stakes college admission tests. But in addition to this, I think the business/industrial model of capitalism valuing efficiency and quantitative data ultimately leads to testing. Since this governs the whole country and philosophy of modern-day people, it is so much harder to reform education – we need to change everything from inside out. If only all the schools in the United States would break away from quantitative test scores and focus on qualitative information about individual students… reform would become so much easier. But then again, that would be very expensive and time-consuming. It seems like there’s always a trade-off; we just need to determine whether monetary costs or social costs is more important to us.


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