Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs

Clarion

Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs

Clarion

Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs

Clarion

Staff Profile
Joy Greco
Joy Greco
Media Editor

    Standardized testing: one piece in admissions puzzle

    Media+by+Sadie+Springer.+
    Sadie Springer
    Media by Sadie Springer.

    Editor note: This article was previously published in volume 92, issue 3 of the Clarion hardcopy. 

     

    In today’s education system, standardized tests have become a rudimentary aspect of a student’s academic experience. Most frequently encountered by Riverside Brookfield High School students are the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT, ACT, STAR ,and AP exams. As testing season commences at RB, students and staff reflect on the significance of standardized testing within the journey to post secondary education. 

    These tests serve a multitude of purposes, both for the test taker themselves, but also for school data and planning. Many of these assessments are taken to meet state requirements, evaluate school performance based on benchmarks for college and career readiness, and to compare results to nationwide trends. 

    “Within the actual academic environment at RB, the state test benchmarks are a broad spectrum guideline for us for student performance and where students’ skills should be. This provides us with the end point in mind of appropriate skill levels,” Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction Kylie Lindquist said.

    Zach Lommach, RB SSD (Services for Students with Disabilities) testing coordinator and special education teacher, is responsible for all students who receive accommodations on any standardized assessments at RB. 

    “A school can look at it [testing scores] and say ‘Hey our math scores have dropped a couple of percentage points as an average, what can we do as a department to raise that?’” Lommach said. “I think it’s helpful to have data and use that to improve the school, the curriculum, whatever it is.” 

    Standardized test scores serve as a tool to measure a student’s performance in a controlled environment. Due to grade inflation, GPA cannot always provide an accurate picture of a student’s achievement level on a level playing field. 

    “I think colleges are finding that just looking at GPA and academic records from high school isn’t telling them enough about whether students are going to be successful or not at the college level,” said Bridget Watson, College Academic Prep (CAP) instructor and testing director. “I’m not saying that the test score is the only indicator of success, but I think it’s a pretty regulated way of anticipating if a student is going to be successful at the freshman level of college and who is going to really struggle and need support.” 

    The perspectives on GPA versus standardized score importance on a college application differentiate among students and staff. Each numerical value uses different factors to measure a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses. 

    “I feel like they shouldn’t be a requirement because your GPA is worth way more than your SAT. You’re taking way more classes for your GPA that have more diversity than the SAT does,” senior Amelia Zrantcheva said.

    Sophomore Quinn Drumheller has had experience with the PSAT and state mandated STAR tests. 

    “For me, standardized tests show a level of time management and rushed problem solving as opposed to actual intelligence. Seeing as the content doesn’t usually apply to everyday class, it’s more about if you can finish the questions in enough time and/or if you’re able to remember something you haven’t done in months or more. A lot of the time, I think the test involves more strategy than it does displays of knowledge,” Drumheller said.

    The skills that standardized tests favor over others may put some students at a disadvantage. 

    “By giving the entire building a test designed to put them on the same playing field, it gives schools a generalized view of student skill levels. With this seemingly positive outcome, however, it can be easy to lose track of the fact that many standardized tests don’t give a full picture of academic intelligence or ability. Instead, they just barely touch the surface,” Drumheller said. 

    Freshman Sophia May took the ACT for the first time last summer. After taking the PSAT for the second time this past April, she has noticed varying differences between the content of the two exams.

    “They measure for different things I feel like,” May said. “I don’t think there’s one test that could measure everyone’s abilities all of the time. It’s just one piece of a broader portfolio of abilities.” 

    Independent from data driven school improvement, scores are often used as a component to a student’s college applications.

    “It used to be a much bigger part of admissions I feel like. Because I know that there are some colleges that went test optional and now they’re going back to the test required for applications,” May said. 

    Many top colleges and universities are making the switch from test optional to test required applications for admissions this upcoming fall. RB’s CAP class aims to prepare junior students for their upcoming exams.

    “Our numbers dipped a little bit with CAP, I think, because when COVID hit, no one was really like stressing the importance of the exam. I think now that some of the schools are shifting back to being like requiring the test for admissions, like we’re seeing more and more schools flip their decisions, from being test optional to needing that test,”  Watson said. “I think that most schools are going to start to go back to looking at that especially for merit money. I feel like you need the test score for merit money for almost all those schools that have those set numbers, if you hit this number, you’re going to get a scholarship.”

    Watson believes that CAP has regained its popularity for many incoming juniors, and class numbers have doubled for next year.

    “I think it’s one piece of the puzzle for the application, I think that there are many people that are not good at standardized testing and would have an amazing work ethic and get great grades and their grit and perseverance is what will make them successful in life and in college,” Watson said. “And I think you have the flip side of that to people that are like, not motivated to turn in homework, and they just knocked the test out of the park. So I feel like it’s one piece of the admissions puzzle.” 

    Deciding to submit scores is a personal choice for many students that often relies on the institution’s average score submission value. 

    “Most schools I did apply with test scores, if I fell within the range of whatever the school wants,” Zrantcheva said. “But for the harder schools where I was not in the range I did not submit because I didn’t think it would be beneficial for me or them.” 

    Drumheller predicts that many of the schools she plans to apply to will reinstate the test score requirement for her class, and hopes that the submission of her scores will give her the upper hand within admissions. 

    “As of right now, I plan to submit my scores when applying for college. I suppose I’ll have to see how I do on next year’s test, but up until this point I have been very proud and confident with my scores,” Drumheller said. 

     No two students have the same post secondary plans. Standardized testing results mean different things for different students depending on their goals. 

    “I applied test optional because a lot of my schools didn’t really necessarily need to see my scores,” senior Lily Kocoreck said. “I feel like my scores didn’t really show the type of person I was.” 

    Kocoreck believed that her application was not improved with the addition of test scores, and that the inclusion of scores within an application only makes a significant difference for certain colleges and career paths. 

    “I was either going to major in nursing or dance. And with dance you really don’t need scores; it’s just about auditioning. Nursing, I feel like my grades would show and the type of person I was would show more than a number on a page.” Kocoreck said.

    While these  scores are oftentimes considered, a number cannot fully encompass a student and their potential. Extracurricular activities, personal statements, and other academic awards are necessary to understand a student thoroughly. 

    “I think standardized tests are only one marker of skill-level/achievement and I do not think they give a complete picture of what a student knows or what a student can do,” Lindquist said. “I have always been ok with schools looking at tests as a part of a student’s profile, but I don’t think a single test should be the main or determining factor for a student’s path for the rest of their lives.”

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    About the Contributor
    Sadie Springer
    Sadie Springer, Editor-in-Chief
    Sadie Springer is a senior at Riverside Brookfield High School. She is on the girls golf team, Vice President of Girl Up, and a part of the NHS executive board as the Director of Service. Her interests include sewing, shopping, and spending time with her french bulldog Gertrude. Her dream is to live on the east coast, and spend her days drinking iced coffee and writing poetry. She hopes to major in journalism. Contact her at [email protected]

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