Covid-19 Has Further Proved the Flaws of Standardized Testing


Graham Doyle

By most metrics, standardized testing is an ineffective way to measure learning. “[Standardized testing] costs money and time to tell if students are learning. Administrators can come into our classrooms and see evidence of learning,” Teacher Mary Manor said.

Elliott Austin, Staff Writer

As the PSATs loom near, questions about the efficacy of standardized testing in the wake of Covid are being raised again. When the pandemic first caused schools to close in early 2020, many students were no longer able to take their tests at the assigned time.  Then-President Donald Trump and the Department of Education decided to allow schools to waive federally required tests. According to Chalkbeat, Then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said, “Students need to be focused on staying healthy and continuing to learn.” But now, things are back in full swing, and students around the nation are wondering where we should go from here. Standardized testing exists everywhere in everyday life, but does it still have a place in our school lives?

Standardized testing is an ineffective metric to measure students. Every kid learns differently. Every kid is going through something different on the day of the test. One kid might have just had a bad morning and then does poorly on tests as a result. All kids are different and it’s unfair to treat them like they are all built the same. 

Students across the state already struggle with standardized testing in the form of MCAs every year, starting around 4th grade. “I have a problem with any standardized test because students aren’t standardized,” teacher Mary Manor said when asked about the way Minnesota does testing. Manor also said that they always did well on standardized tests, but they think it’s because the tests were built for people like them. “Just because I did well on them doesn’t mean that other people just like me will do well on them,” Manor hammered home.

Some students have never taken any standardized tests and haven’t been negatively impacted at all. “I don’t like being defined by a number or by a test score,” said senior Logan Waugh. “Once I was old enough to understand that, I wanted to opt-out anyway.” Waugh has gone her entire school career without taking a single standardized test. She thinks tests like the MCAs are a super unfair way to assess learning. “Humans are all so different in the way we learn, that it’s impossible that one test could accurately represent [how we’ve learned].” 

Even schools like the University of Chicago, Colorado College, George Washington University, and the University of Arizona don’t require ACT or SAT test scores, according to PrepScholar. Furthermore, Fairtest states that over 1,700 schools are test-optional for the fall of 2022.

Waugh hopes that many colleges going test-optional will show to more people how unnecessary the process is. “If you look at someone with a really good test score, you have no idea who they really are.” she continued, “People got admitted to college last year, and things went smoothly, without that kind of judgment. It’s going to be fine if people don’t take tests. If a school wants to judge me by some random number based on how many questions I got right…I don’t really want to go there.” 

How many of us have gotten back our test scores and been overjoyed to see ourselves in the higher percentiles? How many kids got their test results back and saw themselves in the lower percentiles? It’s unfair and unethical to pit kids against each other in this way. The version of standardized testing we use for MCAs and other tests makes some kids feel better than others at the cost of making the rest feel useless. 

The method in which we do standardized tests is not only useless but actively harmful. Social studies teacher Robert Panning-Miller has been one of many teachers vocally against standardized testing in schools.”The MCAs are basically for politicians to look at and not of use to students and teachers,” Panning-Miller said. “We really need to rethink the idea of ranking and sorting human beings. It’s not fair to any of us.”  

Panning Miller believes that the way we do standardized testing now should be done away with entirely, but that there could be some standardized tests that could be actually helpful for students and teachers. He thinks that Covid-19 hasn’t necessarily shown the flaws with standardized testing, but he hopes it shows that we can function just fine, and even better, without them. “There are supporters of testing that think that the system will fall apart just because we can’t track something, and that’s just not the case.” While ultimately he hopes that Covid has demonstrated to more people the variety of issues faced by the U.S. education system, he is also wary of people looking to take advantage of a crisis of this scale and implement damaging capitalist practices.

In the end, it’s been clear for a long time, even before Covid, that standardized testing is neither an ethical nor effective model for most things in a school setting. Now with Covid having mixed things up with the whole testing process recently, it’s time to seriously consider scrapping the way we do standardized testing in America. Sadly, though, it seems most are intent on keeping this system the way that it is.