The Necessary Equalizer

Tests aren’t fun, and hearing a teacher tell me that I have to take a test has never yet brightened my day. But, in truth, standardized testing is the most efficient way to be certain that students are taught adequately by their teachers and that they intake enough information to move on to higher levels of education. Students must be tested to make sure that they know the material they are required to understand. Thousands of kids apply to colleges (and preparatory schools) each year, so schools must have a means of weeding through the stacks of applications to find the kids who would be able to be contributing members of their classes. There are no sensible alternatives to standardized testing. Most schools and colleges do not have enough time and resources for every student or applicant to be examined in multiple ways to see if they have achieved a certain level of accomplishment in a subject. Testing is relatively cheap and doesn’t take up too much manpower or time. Testing is the also most objective way to discern a student’s abilities. If an inspector is working individually with a student to assess their abilities, more human flaws enter the picture. One of the greatest virtues, as well as flaws, of human nature, is that we are opinionated, and so most of us cannot help forming our own assessments of people as soon as we meet them. It is hard to stay completely unprejudiced, and while more precautions can be taken with standardized testing to minimize unfairness, it is harder to do so when evaluations take place on a personal level. With standardized testing, the tests can be sent to other locations to be graded, so opinions formed on a personal level do not factor in. For the student’s own sake, AP tests can help judge whether or not a student has learned enough to be considered past AP level. Without testing, the student might not receive the proper treatment they deserve. For example, a student takes a class but does not take a test to determine their abilities. After completing the course, they wish to move on to take more advanced levels of that subject. Without being tested, their placement would most likely depend on their opinions as well as the opinions of their teachers. Once again, this introduces the shortcomings of human nature. Not all schools give their students the individual attention that Andover gives us, so the student’s placement might be flawed, and as a result, they would suffer. Here at PA, individual teachers are given an almost free reign on what to teach their students, what to test them on, and if the course is AP, how much to prepare their students for it. This system has its benefits; instructors can teach material they are truly passionate about. However, this is not often fair to students. Some teachers spend weeks preparing for AP exams, while others, due to personal reasons such as disliking standardized testing in general, refuse to spend any class time preparing at all, putting their students at a severe disadvantage. It is fine that teachers do not shape their course to the AP exam’s mold. Students at Phillips Academy are tremendously talented, and can often handle more than the average public school’s AP curriculum, and this freedom allows for that, but it is also important that teachers do cover all the material that is on the test. After all, AP courses at Andover do read, in the course manual, that they “prepare students for the [subject] AP”. Just because we go to Andover, does not mean we can necessarily take our APs without preparation. And just because tests aren’t fun to take, does not mean that there is a better alternative. Raeva Kumar is a Junior from Poughquag, NY.