By: Erin Holly McDermott, Editorial Staff ‘23
As the time of year where upperclassmen embark to different schools across the county to take SATs and ACTs, and underclassmen prepare for the first of many PSAT endeavors, the question remains: are Standardized Tests ethically appropriate? The most logical answer is that state and standardized testing pose severe, unavoidable ethical issues for students and teachers alike. Students are forced into tests with threats of failure, while teachers struggle to teach for a test rather than for a class.
Throughout our 12 years of public education, the average student will take 112 standardized tests from Pre-k to Grade 12. This is an appalling statistic, that further poses the question: How much is too much? Is there an end? The basic concept of standardized testing: to evaluate the extent to which school districts are on student-based levels for education, is well-developed. However, how standardized testing has been administered and constantly changed is wreaking havoc across the student body. Based upon the added stress placed upon students of any age, how ‘worth it’ is this evaluation? Students have stress from school, sports, extracurricular activities, family issues, friendships, relationships, clubs, expectations, college applications, etc. All of these factors amalgamate together, resulting in some of the highest student depression and anxiety rates of any high school class. To add standardized testing on top of college entry-based testing, including SAT, PSAT, ACT, ASVAB, is wildly unethical. Society is just finally starting to move in the right direction in regards to mental health awareness and treatment. Influential celebrities, including Michelle Obama, Naomi Osaka, Stephen Curry, Simone Biles, Demi Lovato, and Justin Bieber, have been long-term advocates for mental health. However, standardized testing proves to be a severe setback to a more understanding society entirely. However, there are also all of the socioeconomic and cultural factors that are not taken into consideration. Students from under-developed areas are statistically more likely to not meet educational standards than students from more economically stable areas. Students may have religious or family obligations that take priority over standardized testing.
Furthermore, standardized testing forces increased pressure upon teachers and staff. Teachers are pressured to teach for a test rather than for the student’s futures, eliminating much of the time that could be taken to form meaningful student-teacher relationships. The ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ (2002) creates a high-risk environment for students and staff. Educators are subjected to punishment if students are not scoring at or above the designated standard for all students. This classification and assumption of all students operating at the same level prove toxic for the school environment, acting to further isolate underperforming students and staff.
The solution to the ethical issues in standardized state and federal testing is not cut and dry, nor is it black and white. The elimination of standardized testing would result in college-educated individuals that lack the proper basic standards of early learning. Conversely, continuing on the same path would also have negative effects on all of the school environment. The only available solution is to replace standardized testing with teacher-based assessments at the end of the school year. This would allow teachers to regulate what, when, and how their students, who have created strong relationships for an entire school year, be tested. These options would still allow for assessing the validity of year-long learning, and whether or not students are on or off the acceptable pace. Having a board of both students and teachers assessing standardized testings’ effect on mental health would ensure that testing companies care about their test takers.