Standardized Tests

Susie DeRoss, Editor-in-Chief

Standardized tests are exams that are administered and scored under consistent circumstances so students across the nation can be compared.  Some tests that students at Joliet West are very familiar with are EXPLORE, PLAN, and PSAE.  The EXPLORE test is given during spring of students’ freshman year, PLAN during their sophomore year, and PSAE (Prairie State Achievement Exam) during their junior year. The freshmen and sophomore tests are preparation for the junior PSAE test.  The PSAE is a two day exam that includes the ACT (American College Test) and the WorkKeys assessment.  These tests often create a lot of commotion—especially among juniors—because their importance is so stressed.  If a student is planning on attending college after graduation, his or her ACT score could play a large role in where he or she attends.  WorkKeys scores may also come up in the future.  Since these tests are so important, there is a lot of preparation for them.  Students and teachers put a great deal of time and effort into making sure everyone is prepared to do their best.  Standardized tests are usually designed to test knowledge in standard subject areas such as English, Math, and Science.  They are almost always timed and the testing conditions are very strict.  Being able to perform well on some of the tests administered is almost more a display of skill than knowledge.  There is a nationwide issue: schools are beginning to focus significant amounts of teaching efforts on these tests.

Test scores do have the power to influence the future of students, teachers, and even schools, but if a student performs well on the ACT it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has mastered all educational skills.  A lot of time is being spent helping students to perfect tests instead of helping them to perfect academic skills.  A recent survey from Scholastic and the Gates Foundation reveals that only seven percent of the 10,000 surveyed educators see standardized testing as an essential part of learning.  Standardized tests are currently the easiest and most efficient way for students to be compared to one another, but there is too much of an emphasis on these exams.  The focus needs to switch from tests to necessary educational skills students will use places outside of tests.