Kalamazoo, MI
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The Move to ‘Test Optional’ is a Step in the Right Direction

Over spring break, we received notice that K would be going “test optional” in its admissions process, joining 800 other higher education institutions nationwide that have also made the switch.

The decision sparked discussion among students about the effectiveness of standardized testing when it comes to measuring intellectual aptitude, and whether or not tests like the ACT or SAT exacerbate the existing “achievement gap” in public schools.

With scholarships, college acceptance letters, and federal education funding all relying on test scores, many people wonder whether standardized testing is the savior or anti-Christ of American education.

As K College transitions to a “test optional” application process in 2016, we need to examine the effect standardized testing has on education and individual students.

With acts like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, standardized testing has become, well, standard in American educational environments.

Students are inundated with yearly tests intended to measure their aptitude, the amount of federal funding a school receives, and the “effectiveness” of teachers in the classroom. Lower test scores equals less funding, teacher punishment, and a pervasive culture of cheating in classrooms.

Instead of measuring what students have learned, many educators believe standardized tests only measure how well a student can take a test in a controlled environment.

Testing also fails to recognize the importance of personal achievements in education, and creates a “one size fits all” curriculum that ignores the needs of individual students. Students are not learning skills that would help them in a college or professional environment – instead, they’re only being taught how to take a test.

With the new decreased emphasis on standardized test scores in K’s application process, hopefully other factors will be recognized instead.

In a perfect world, this could mean more students from different socioeconomic backgrounds could apply and receive the top-notch education K provides. Policies like No Child Left Behind provide a downward spiral for schools with low test scores: low funding results in students receiving a poor education and little resources to help students excel on standardized tests.

Test-optional application processes allow for students from these areas to have the opportunity to pursue higher education, and become contenders in the real world.

The effects of K’s switch over could also send a message to other Michigan schools: that standardized test scores are an inadequate measurement of a student’s capacity to learn.

We’ll have to see how the “test-option” application process works out for the Kalamazoo community post-2016, but I give two enthusiastic thumbs up to administration for their decision.

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The Move to ‘Test Optional’ is a Step in the Right Direction