• PK4L

The Death of Standardized Testing?

Updated: Apr 10, 2018

At long last, colleges are increasingly ignoring standardized test scores.

The “non-profit” College Board, whose annual revenues exceed $200 million, has long been considered the “gatekeeper” of higher education. They sell the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and AP tests (including the prep materials) as the path to college success and have made hundreds of millions from that premise. Recently, however, their empire of wealth has begun to crumble...and one can only hope for its imminent demise.

Of course, perhaps even more questionable is the ability of these tests to measure a student's “aptitude.”

In 2005, the National Council of Teachers released a report warning that,

  1. The SAT was pushing for a “formulaic” method of writing and

  2. Students are not allowed any time for rewrites on the 25-minute essay section--a major oversight when measuring one’s editing abilities.

  3. This style of testing only promotes conformity; in order to succeed on the essay, students must ignore their inner creativity and instead churn out mechanical, structured responses.

Building on the conclusions of that 2005 report, in 2013, Les Perelman, director of undergraduate writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), reviewed approximately 50 sample essays from the SAT and discovered a “coincidental” correlation between length and score, remarking that,

If you just graded them based on length without ever reading them, you’d be right over 90 percent of the time.

So...length over quality? Sound familiar?

The fact that colleges have begun to reject SAT and ACT scores as admission requirements could support a convincing argument that institutions of higher learning are simply “lowering their standards” to boost enrollments and compensate for declining tuition revenues. Especially since this practice is becoming more common.

However, one could also suggest--with some factual confidence--that standardized tests are virtually useless in evaluating collegiate worthiness and should have been abandoned quite some time ago.

In a post for Education News, Jordan E. Wassell reported that George Washington University had joined with 800+ colleges in waiving SAT and/or ACT scores as prerequisites for admission.

While these admission requirements are being increasingly waived, alternative evaluations are simultaneously growing in popularity as evidenced by Temple University, which employs a rather interesting approach to admissions. Instead of test scores, students can choose to write a series of four essay questions which are used to assess leadership, self-awareness, goal setting, determination, and grit. These essays are collectively read and scored by graduate students and the admissions department.

[As a side note, in 2010, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus wrote a (interesting + disturbing = disturberesting) article for USA Today that explored where all that college tuition money goes. And it has only gotten worse...]

Of course the well-deserved demise of standardized testing could be accelerated if enough students simply opted out.

That may sound somewhat extreme, but Elizabeth A. Harris of the New York Times published an article in 2015, that aptly described the impact of students opting out of standardized testing.

In an unexpectedly decisive victory for supporters of “opting out”, 20% of eligible students elected not to take the New York state standardized tests this year. These numbers represent a significant setback for the self-identified “educational accountability movement” in New York, which has, “sought to use data to evaluate educational progress on all levels, including the success of districts, schools, and individual teachers. Now, in many districts with high rates of test refusals, the data has been badly crippled.”

[TRANSLATION: Basically, educrats are distressed about being unable to aggregate meaningless data collected from worthless tests...but I digress].

So where do advocates of “opting out” go from here?

In 2008, former teacher John Taylor Gatto’s (New York City Teacher of the Year 1989, 1990, 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991) tireless crusade to end standardized testing found its voice in the Bartleby Project.

In his brilliant manifesto inspired by the main character from Herman Melville’s, Bartleby the Scrivener, Gatto describes a simple, yet effective, blueprint to eliminate the scourge of standardized testing. If this generation ever realized that these tests add nothing of value to the lives of individuals, or that of society…they could bring to bear the enormous power of social media to quietly—but effectively—opt-out of these tests.

Without initiating a single cyber flame war or physical demonstration, students all across America could simply write across the face of every standardized test placed in front of them,

“I would prefer not to take this test.”

Gatto advises those who adopt this strategy to avoid “nationalization” and remain leaderless, but resolute in their efforts to eradicate the existence of standardized tests. Eventually, the “I-prefer-not-to’s” will become an irresistible force capable of overcoming the inevitable blow back from the “educational accountability movement.”

By the way, are the fanboys of standardized testing truly so myopic as to believe that the “refusers” would be denied admission to colleges? [Um…sure they will]. Colleges and universities are businesses first and foremost, and can be relied upon to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure their tuition dollars continue to flow uninterrupted into their coffers. Even if that means there are no standardized test scores to evaluate.

The Bartleby Project invites all American students,

[...] one by one, to peacefully refuse to take standardized tests or to participate in any preparation for these tests; it asks them to act because adults chained to institutions and corporations are unable to; because these tests pervert education, are disgracefully inaccurate, impose brutal stresses without reason, and actively encourage a class system which is poisoning the future of the nation.

If The Bartleby Project is to succeed, then even the thought of compromise cannot be entertained. "Compromise" will be the edutocracy's second line of defense, a standard trick taught in political science seminars. Don’t fall for it. Reject compromise. There is no need to explain why. There is no need to shout. And may the spirit of the scrivener put steel in your backbone. Just simply tell them:

"I would prefer not to take your test."