The Daily Gamecock

Tête à Tête: Criticism of tests unfair, ignores its inherent value

The Issue: Recent cheating scandals in schools have called into question the effectiveness of standardized testing

Good and bad are relative terms — my friend Reggie is “good” at football when compared to my other friends and me who play pickup games, but “bad” when he compared to USC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The relativity of the terms “good” and “bad” is important in examining the value of standardized testing.

Opponents of standardized testing often claim these tests are “bad” at determining the value of students. And they’re absolutely correct. Unfortunately for these opponents, I’m unaware of a single standardized test that purports to be “good” at determining the value of students.

Standardized tests are only meant to measure success in the academic field (some tests even narrow that down to specific subjects, such as math or science). Their job is to measure whether students know certain things — nothing more and nothing less.

And when we say standardized tests are “good,” we must be comparing them to something else. We want to compare standardized testing to other measurements of academic success. In most school districts, the only other commonly used metric in this category is GPA.

GPAs are wonderful at gauging an individual student’s cumulative academic record. However, several factors make GPAs a poor measurement for comparison between students. First, grading scales differ drastically across the country. A student graduating from my high school in Virginia Beach, Va., 23rd in his or her class with a 4.1 may or may not be as academically successful as the valedictorian graduating from his or her school in Kentucky with a 4.0. It only appears that way due to differences in the grading scale. This is a problem that doesn’t occur in standardized tests, since they are scored on the same scale everywhere they are given.

The utility of a student to a university, or an employee to a job, is not solely determined by his or her academic record. Many other factors come into play, and most of those have their own tools of measurement. You wouldn’t try to construct a large project from scratch with only one tool, and you shouldn’t try to evaluate a student using just one parameter either.

A full set of tools is needed for any task, and it’s ridiculous to say any one of those tools is “bad,” “useless,” “inaccurate” or “a waste of time or money” because it can’t do the entire job by itself.


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