The Pandemic, Stress, and Tests: Why Standardized Testing Needs to Go

Shreya Kesarwani and Srija Ghosh

Standardized testing has been a part of the American education system since the mid-1800s, and for decades, colleges required either an ACT or SAT score as part of a student application. However, amid the pandemic, many schools have temporarily made these score submissions optional. 

However, schools should consider making these changes permanent. To start off, the pandemic is creating an additional array of drawbacks to standardized testing, from health risks to compounding students’ stress. Even in a ‘normal’ setting, standardized testing should no longer be used to assess a student’s knowledge because it fails to do so effectively. 

The specific style and content of standardized tests puts pressure on teachers to teach according to the test instead of pursuing other techniques that might better benefit students’ learning. This is especially true when performance on standardized tests are used to gauge a teacher’s proficiency. 

“There is already a lot of debate on whether or not MCAS is useful anyway in determining student performance, in determining teacher performance, in determining school performance,” Caroline Fantasia, an English teacher at LHS, said. 

More importantly, the issues surrounding standardized testing are further amplified by the pandemic. If schools continue to host standardized testing, as they have currently have planned, they risk endangering students who are immunocompromised or have family members that are. Students might feel the need to take the test, risking their own and their families’ health, if they think it might give them an advantage for college admissions. 

“It just gives a big unknown because we as counselors and students don’t really know how else colleges are going to be evaluating [students] without test scores,” Francisco Hernandez Salgado, a guidance counselor, said. 

 Many LHS students are already experiencing high levels of stress. With the added stressors of a pandemic, standardized testing could only make things worse. 

“I think right now that students and teachers and parents and families are under a great deal of stress with COVID-19 and with the pandemic. It doesn’t seem fair to add one more level of stress for students, teachers, and parents at this point,” Susanne Klein, a math teacher, said. 

However, it may be argued that standardized testing is an unbiased and equitable resource used by teachers and parents to gauge a student’s subject knowledge. Without this identical test for all students, it is uncertain about how to compare students. 

“I just personally don’t know what it will look like for [colleges] to compare a student with test scores and a student without them, so in that sense it causes a different type of stress,” Hernandez said. 

Even though standardized tests cover the same material for all demographics, they certainly do not measure all students equally. Higher-income families can afford to pay for standardized testing books and specialized tutors to guarantee their children a higher score. Test scores alone certainly do not take into account all the other factors in students’ lives. 

“[Standardized testing] is not a full representation of who the student is and I think that is how I see the stress coming into the student,”  Hernandez said. 

Instead of standardized testing, teachers and schools should focus on students’ grades throughout their four years at high school.

“At the end of the day, students should be held accountable for their report card, their performance in their classes, their homework, what they’re doing in the classroom. That is a better assessment than a standardized test,” Fantasia said. 

Due to the unrepresentative nature of standardized testing, the issues with inequity, and the current safety risk of students’ health during the pandemic, standardized testing is a flawed practice. Therefore, all colleges should eliminate it from the college application.