Standardized Testing Must Go At Least Until Affirmative Action is Abolished

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With so many American and non-American children endeavoring to gain access to the nation’s most prestigious colleges, the time has come end the standardized testing system that has reduced admissions considerations to a set of numbers, as opposed to an evaluation of an individual’s potential to contribute to a community and, ultimately, to a global society. This is rendered all the more true by the fact that standardized testing has further complicated the process by which “diversity” is achieved in student body populations. With so many qualified applicants from which to choose, college admissions committees have set artificially deflated standards by which certain underrepresented groups of students may be judged. In judging these students accordingly, their own futures are compromised and so too are the futures of those with whom these students will study, as well as those who have been denied admission in order to accommodate these students in the name of standardized testing.

As the Civil Rights movement has achieved so much on behalf of underrepresented students seeking equal opportunity, minority students have developed an unhealthy complacency of sorts, correctly believing that they can skirt their scholastic responsibilities through high school because they will be given a leg-up in the admissions process by virtue of their ethnic status. Knowing that their standardized scores will be evaluated to a greater degree than their academic record, these students also know that they need not achieve scores as high as their more fortunate counterparts in order to gain advantages in admission through affirmative action admissions policies (Nieli, 2012). Such students are admitted to schools for which they do not qualify according to the schools’ objective standards, which furthers this sense of complacency. Once enrolled at these schools, such students do poorly for themselves and by others.

These complacent students soon discover that they are ill-equipped to perform at colleges with challenging curriculums of the kind that they have never been willing to approach. In turn, their admission to these colleges, largely on account of standardized test scores, results in more deserving applicants being denied admission. These applicants would be willing to engage in the challenges of a rigorous college curriculum and would likely benefit from it in making meaningful contributions to the world-at-large upon graduation and afterward. Moreover, these unprepared students lower the instructional caliber across the board at whichever college they choose to enroll. As a result, those students with whom they are admitted are denied access to the challenging course of study for which they have prepared themselves.

Given all this, standardized testing is an engine that drives a system that threatens a lack of societal productivity on the part of our youngest underrepresented generation and the generation of proportionately represented young people who must sacrifice their own productivity in order to accommodate the unhealthy complacency developed by their peers, who have long “gamed” the standardized testing system by coasting through their high school careers only to achieve a standardized score in excess of the lower standard by which they are judged. This system does nothing to improve the long-term fates of these often socio-culturally marginalized youths, who believe that by virtue of “beating” the standardized system, they will succeed in the “real world,” in which they will be judged according to non-standardized criteria.

Ultimately, standardized testing only sets an artificial baseline by which a student may be judged, failing to account for the full extent of the student’s scholastic potential by not addressing the less formulaic elements of the student’s intellect and fostering a dangerous sense of complacency for those who believe that they are held to different standards and will be judged according to these inferior standards going forward. But this emphasis on standardized testing in the college admissions process is reason enough to shed it as a standard by which colleges admit their students, if only because this selection process empowers those who will not fulfill their potential going forward, while also restricting the potential of those with non-standard forms of intellect. If we continue down this path, we will be unprepared to compete with the collective of nations embracing merits-based holistic assessment of student potential for achievement.

In the United States today, so much depends upon performance on standardized tests, from high school to college admissions to graduate school admissions. Invariably, these tests exist solely for the purpose of allowing admissions committees to over-simplify their selection processes., which they do with disastrous consequences. Not only are those more qualified for admission than others denied admission on the basis of their own often unreliable standardized testing results, but they are also denied admission pursuant to the lowered expectations for underrepresented minority students who perform poorly on such tests. These minority students then enroll at colleges for which they are not prepared, thereby curtailing their potential, which has already been compromised by the habits they have developed in settling on lower test scores in light of the lower standard to which they know they will be held. Unfortunately, the “real world” operates according to more normal and less “standardized” standards, which judge according to overall quality, as opposed to some artificially deflated standard of such quality. If we do not abolish standardized testing now, our youngest generation will grow far too accustomed to operating according to lowered standards far lower than those which they will actually be held when their contributions to the world are assessed. As a result of employing this system, the U.S. is already far behind in the race to contribute to the evolution of humanity and it cannot risk falling even further behind by continuing to fail to employ “real world” standards in student assessment and evaluation.


Nieli, R.K. (2012). Wounds that will not heal. New York: Encounter Books (2012).