Opinion: Standardized testing takes a toll on students’ mental health

The high-stakes eliteness of standardized testing subconsciously illuminates competitiveness that pins students against one another. Unfortunately, it continues to be a commonality for students to identify and measure their self-worth in accordance with their test scores and teachers’ critiques.

Standardized testing may even correlate to self-deprecation and may also be one of the primary factors of mental health struggles, according to a 2016 report by Harvard Graduate School of Education student Christina Simpson. Perhaps the pressure and prestige of standardized testing are to blame social media and college admission authorities rather than the students. Standardized testing devalues a plethora of components that were taught and praised in my elementary schooling curriculum.

Standardized testing was created as a measurement of students’ intelligence. Horace Mann created standardized testing in 1845. This inaccurate measurement has prevented a multitude of students from reaching or exceeding their maximum academic potential. A blunt test score is inevitably unable to produce an accurate reading of educational achievement. Standardized testing diminishes other crucial aspects of intelligence such as imagination and creativity.

The American Psychological Association surveyed teen students from the ages 13 to 17 to better understand how teens experience stress and the impact it has on their daily lives. In 2020, the study showed that 87% of the students feel that standardized tests amplify their stress.

Why is it that standardized testing is more stressful than regular tests?

Well, standardized tests are viewed as the ultimate decider of intelligence. For example, the PSAT is mostly mandatory among high schoolers in preparation for the actual SAT. When roaming high school campuses, it’s very likely that you may hear someone ask: “What did you get on the PSAT?” or “Are you happy with your PSAT score?”

This question provokes added pressure and stress among peers. Comparing scores could be used as motivation, or it may dishearten you.

In a broader example, let’s say you applied for Early Decision and the university is releasing its letters today. Unfortunately, you got rejected and you’re heartbroken. When you browse on Instagram you immediately observe numerous stories congratulating their friends that got into the school that you didn’t. Social media glorifies the college admissions process and fails to take into account the non-accepted student’s feelings.

College admission authorities indirectly encourage students to compete with each other. Since educational institutions have much influence, vulnerable students often will go to any extent to stand out amongst their peers.

Unfortunately, higher-class students who can afford tutors and private high school education consistently acquire an upper leg throughout the college application process. Parents, who are in the top 1% of the income distribution, children are “77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League college than those whose parents are in the bottom income quintile,” according to Ivy Coach.

The stigma around “prestigious” colleges needs severe and immediate updating.


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