Controversy Surrounds Standardized Testing

Standardized testing has been questioned by students and teachers alike for years.


Standardized testing has been questioned by students and teachers alike for years.

Ryen Heigley, Writer

You wake up, and the anxiety builds. Each student must take an exam to determine their knowledge on a certain subject. They spend hours in a classroom with their eyes glued to a paper or screen that could determine whether or not they’ll get into their dream college or even whether or not they’ll graduate.

Standardized tests are given nationwide as a baseline measure of what a student has learned in certain subjects. Some are used for college applications or credits, while others are meaningless in terms of academic value.

Punxsutawney Area High School has a number of different “pathways” that a student can take in order to graduate. One common requirement among them is passing some type of standardized test with a certain score. These exams include Keystone, SAT, ACT, PSAT, and PSSA.

Controversies have aroused about whether or not these exams are worth the time and effort put into them.

Students and teachers alike are full of questions about the legitimacy of these exams and how they truly benefit students. Punxsutawney senior Kaylee Guidice says, “They just stress me out more because I always have these exams in the back of my head, and it makes it harder to focus on the class itself.” Punxsutawney English teacher Heather Good  says, “These tests can be frustrating for students because, in a subject like English, a student may be able to perform a skill, but not in the context of the passages given on the exams.”

The playing field on which these tests are taken is also taken into consideration when talking about the validity of these tests’ representations of a student’s knowledge. Punxsutawney seniors Ben Gifford, Kaylee Guidice, and Alex Momyer all agreed that students with poor test-taking skills or test anxiety are put at a disadvantage to display their knowledge in a format present on exams such as the SAT or the Keystone. Punxsutawney algebra teacher Jeremy Hospodar says, “I wish there wasn’t so much pressure on these kids from the start to do well on standardized tests.”

From a solely teacher perspective, these exams can change the way students are taught. Punxsutawney biology teacher Todd Heigley says, “You miss out on some instructional time and real world connectivity when you have to focus so much on the generalized topics.”

Despite many downfalls that students describe within standardized testing, they are also able to see the benefits. Gifford, Guidice, and Momyer all agree that it provides a solid baseline for students to see where they stand among their peers. They also provide a foundation in general subjects for students to build on in the future.

Teachers also benefit in similar ways. By seeing students’ scores, it can make it easier to see where specific students or even a class as a whole struggles and how to improve their teaching within these areas. These exams are very generalized so that students of all academic tiers are able to succeed and show the educators the best way to educate each level.

After the pandemic in 2020, colleges and universities across the country have changed admissions to “test-optional,” which gives students an option whether or not to submit their SAT or ACT score. The intention of this was to give more attention to academic success and less weight to standardized tests in the application process.

Despite much controversy surrounding this style of testing, its role is unlikely to change as the “test-optional” phase has passed, and many schools have returned to pre-pandemic conditions. Whether you love it or hate it, standardized testing will continue to be a part of almost every high school student’s career.