Standardized testing adds unnecessary stress to South students’ lives


Elizabeth McMillen, South’s testing coordinator, smiles as she files opt-out forms for standardized testing in the spring.

Noura Abukhadra, Staff Writer

  Almost every student that attends South is made aware of the prominent opt-out culture by freshman year. Increasingly, students are given the option to not take standardized tests such as the M.A.P.s (Measure of Academic Progress) and the MCAs (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments).

  The movement has been gaining popularity at South based on the idea that a standardized test scores reflect a student’s knowledge from a moment in time, rather than their overall intellect. In addition, the tests are built for wealthy white students often leaving behind students of color in succeeding on the tests and therefore, create achievement gaps.

  Open history teacher Joshua Fisher asserts,“The chief argument for me is that it’s just not equitable and if we’re trying to create an educational environment that really supports as many students as possible and gives the same opportunities, standardized tests are working in direct conflict with that.”

  Testing is not only non-equitable but it robs students of relevant in class learning time, an idea testing coordinator Elizabeth McMillen feels strongly about. Mcmillen finds the timing inconvenient especially towards the end of a quarter when students are on a final stretch. “They’re time consuming,” she stated, “Especially this time of year when kids are working on projects for finals,” she pointed out. McMillen spoke for many of us by saying “they’re not my favorite thing.”

  Junior Ellen Demgen did an action research project her freshman year on standardized testing, interviewing a wide variety of staff and students. She said, “We decided to gather data and do interviews and then make a documentary about why standardized testing was not a good way to evaluate students intelligence levels, and how [standardized testing] is actually harmful.

  Both Demgen and I are in agreement when she emphasizes that it can add an extra layer of stress and that they are in no way beneficial to students. “Standardized tests show such a narrow picture of a student’s abilities and so often, when they do badly on them it makes them feel like they’re not as good of students,” she concluded. “If they opt out, they are not exposing themselves to the ability to be judged by something that is not a good determining factor.”

  While the graduation requirements are making strides in reducing the presence of M.C.A.s and M.A.P.s, there are still quite a few standardized tests which unfortunately remain mandatory. “Currently, the class of 2016, has to have taken the ACT with writing,” Demgen said. McMillen clarified, “They also had to have taken the PLAN test in the 10th grade, and the EXPLORE test in the 8th grade.”

  We must continue to push for standardized testing’s antiquation and remember that the white and semi-wealthy families who have access to education are the ones that these tests are built for. They use inaccessable language to students who don’t use formal vocabulary in their everyday lives. They are for students whose parents went to ivy-league schools, and come from affluent backgrounds.

  As Fisher pointed out, “If the tests are biased in a way where particular populations of students are hindered from the get-go, because they don’t have the same reference points or experiences, then, that’s a problem, and it’s reinforcing those systems of privilege and power that are causing problems in so many other aspects of our society”.

  Although South receives a lot of bad press for our test scores which result from many students opting out, Mcmillen reminds us that there many occasions where we do well in other aspects that are ignored. “I guess what they aren’t looking at is all the other cool stuff we do, how well our students do in A.P. [Advanced Placement], and how many students voluntarily took the A.C.T. yesterday, they don’t see those things,” she added.

  Standardized tests across the board are difficult, but we must acknowledge that they are not built for families who aren’t white and middle-upper class. However, it seems that mostly the families whom the test are built for are the ones opting out.

  “I’d say that the disproportionate representation of failing or marginal scores among people of color is something that has shown me that this is an injustice that being perpetrated against the kids in this country, that these test are biased in many ways to favor particular backgrounds and experiences.” Fisher specified.

  Standardized tests will never serve any purpose other than to set certain privileged groups up for success, to stress out students. They judge students from a single day in their lives. Opting out is a form of protest that allows students to show they are more than a test score. At the end of the day, they aren’t worth anyone’s time.