By Justin Kane Managing editor Last fall, I had a humanities professor who said something on the first day of class that I’ve never agreed with more.
She asked the class a simple question: “Who here has taken the FCAT?” A majority of the kids raised their hands and some looked confused as to what FCAT was.
S h e explained that the FCAT is a standardized test that students in Florida take from third grade to junior year of high school. But what she said next got my attention. “The FCAT is a load of bullshit and it’s pointless,” she said. “They mean nothing and they are a waste of time.”
Whoa. I grew up thinking that the FCAT was the most important thing that I needed to pass, and to hear her say that gave me a new perspective.
It’s not FCAT that is a load of bullshit, but that standardized testing is. I have a bias: I am not a good test-taker. That is a flaw of mine. But I do not believe that one test should d e t e r m i n e whether or not you advance. Standardized testing is p o i n t l e s s . There are so many flaws. You could be having the worst day of your life, and you have to take a standardized test (such as the FCAT, SAT or ACT), and you don’t do well. So, poof. There goes your college dreams or now you have to pay extra to take a pre-requisite class. That was my case. During orientation in 2011, I had to take a placement test to determine which math class I could take freshman year because I didn’t do well on my SATs. I wasn’t aware that I had to take this test. It was brought up by surprise. I missed the cut by three points, and I had to take, and pay for, Intermediate Algebra during fall of freshman year. A class that doesn’t count as a math credit, but as an elective. I wasn’t the only one, either. That class fills up each semester, and it’s all because of a standardized test. Is that really fair? To punish students by making them take another math class just because they didn’t pass a test at orientation? No. It’s not fair.
That’s just one example of the flaws of standardized testing. There are plenty more. Like I said earlier, what if you wake up on the day you take a test and you’re having the worst day of your life? You take the test and fail. Are you not as smart because you didn’t do well? According to the system, that would be the case. It would show up on paper that you failed.
Another flaw is testing people in America whose first language isn’t English. Standardized tests are written in English for English speakers and English readers. Are you going to tell someone who moved to America from a country that doesn’t speak English that they aren’t smart because they couldn’t understand the test to the best of their abilities? What about the people who are terrible test takers or get nervous under pressure? Are you going to fault them for that? Also, what about the people who are good guessers? You can have two people (one who has studied for the subject and the other who hasn’t) take the test and get the same score or have the person who doesn’t know the subject do better.
It isn’t fair, which is the entire point of the word “standardized.” I’ll be honest. I have a grudge with standardize testing. Actually, I have a grudge with just one test — the grammar test, which students must pass to continue taking journalism classes and to graduate with a journalism degree.
Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. It’s 100 questions and it must be passed with a 75, not a 70 like a normal passing grade. It can only be taken three times a semester, and if you don’t pass the test, you don’t pass the class. So, like previously stated, if you don’t pass a test you can’t get your degree. Regardless of how many writing clips or internships you have completed. Regardless of how many times you have worked for publications or any type of journalism work you’ve done. If you don’t get a 75, it doesn’t matter.
That’s crazy that one test can determine whether or not that you can be a journalist. This isn’t the only test on campus that has these requirements. Students trying to be teachers must rely on a series of standardized tests to get their teaching degree.
I’m not saying that you don’t need proper grammar to become a journalist or certain training to become a teacher. I believe that one test shouldn’t determine whether or not you get what you want and work toward. It should be a series of tests that shows that you are improving over time and learning as you are observing classrooms or writing stories for publication.
I’m not saying that standardized testing shouldn’t happen. I’m saying that it shouldn’t determine your future. I’m the perfect example. If it were all based on standardized testing I wouldn’t be writing this article. Heck, I wouldn’t even be in college right now. I did poorly on my FCAT reading, yet I was in honors English class in high school. I scored poorly on my SATs, and I’m a junior in college.
So I hope the system gets fixed. I hope that kids such as me won’t have to change their majors anymore because of a single test. In time, in time.