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The Upside of State Standardized Tests: A Student Speaks

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A perceptive, reflective, high school junior in Denver wrote an opinion piece that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Denver Post yesterday.
In it, Jennifer Luo remarks that her years of taking standardized tests, filling out bubble sheets, thinking about pacing, reviewing and revising answers, and managing the stress of taking the state standardized tests (known as the Colorado State Assessment Program, or CSAP) have prepared her well for the realities of college admission.
She says that years of practice on the state tests have helped her to perform well on the SAT and ACT tests.

Some students see no motivation to take the test. I disagree. I think I learned something from taking the CSAPs. It teaches test-taking strategies. And it’s about learning to calm nerves and getting used to standardized tests, because there are scarier ones ahead. And for college-bound students, those ones matter.

And as I prepare for these important exams, I’ve realized that I’m actually lucky to have taken the CSAP six times. That’s six practice tests, all without costing a dime. I’ve refined my testing skills – relaxing, pacing, double-checking, remembering to bring the lucky pencil. With practice comes ease, and because of CSAPs, I’ve been preparing since I was 8. Whether my teachers or I knew it at the time, the test-taking strategies we practiced are now useful for vital high school tests.
Taking the CSAPs was like drinking eight glasses of water a day: awfully boring and mundane, but advantageous in the end.
And while I complain about standardized tests and the time I spend preparing for the SAT, I also realize that there’s no better way to compare students across the country. And since I can’t run away from tests and I’ll see more in college, I might as well get all the practice I can get.
And now, with the PSAT looming this month, I’m grateful for every bit of practice I had. Including the questionable CSAPs.

Now that is a reasonable view of the state tests.
I do find it ironic that some of the most vocal opponents of standardized tests in K-12 schools are sometimes the very same folks who want their kids to go to elite or name-brand colleges. They also shell out thousands for their kids to cram for the SAT and ACT, because they know that these “scary” exams really do matter in college admissions.
True, the SAT and ACT are only one measure of a student’s worth. They are not necessarily good predictors of future performance. But they are a perfectly acceptable way to compare “apples to apples” across the country, across school systems, and across racial and ethnic lines. What with grade inflation and the knowledge that some schools do a better job of preparing our kids for college-level work than others, we must have some way of comparing kids’ knowledge and aptitude fairly and consistently. This is what the SAT and ACT do. They “standardize” American education, because we still do not have a standard educational system across the country.
And young Jennifer Luo is perceptive enough to recognize that standardization is not necessarily a bad thing. She, for one, appreciates that the CSAP exams have prepared her for the realities of the college admission process.
Now that’s a mature perspective.
Mark Montgomery
Montgomery Educational Consulting

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