Is It Right to Determine a Student’s Future Based
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“If my future were determined just by my performance on a standardized test, I wouldn’t be here. I guarantee you that,” Michelle Obama said. Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including logic, abstract thought, understanding, planning, and problem solving. Earlier it was believed that there was one underlying general factor at the intelligence base, but later psychologists maintained that it is more complicated and could not be determined by such a simplistic method. If psychologists have proven that your knowledge cannot be based on one factor, then why do schools still use that method to classify a student’s intelligence level? One could argue that IQ tests deprive students of not reaching their full potential in classes, but one could also argue that it seems to be one of the only ways to categorize students into classes. The situation is quite similar to Machiavelli’s explanation, in The Prince, of the end justifying the means.
He describes that anything, even something unfair or malevolent actions, are acceptable as long as it leads to a successful result. In this case the means doesn’t necessarily have to result to inequity, if schools start realizing a single test doesn’t prove your intellect. IQ tests should not be the main source for schools to categorize students because it doesn’t fully prove the intelligence of a certain person, lowers your chances of getting into college, and has advantages towards one racial group over another. In class, teachers aren’t curious if you got the right answer, but rather if you got to your final answer properly. IQ tests are not concentrated with the process of getting answers, but rather with the final product. A recent study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests that you can be insanely intelligent, and still fall foul when it comes to simple problems because of deviations in judgment.
This is known as “cognitive bias” (Clondliffe, 2013). This cognitive bias was proven when a simple question was asked to thousands of students. The problem went as, “A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” If you’re in a rush, which one is in the limited amount of time to take your test, you might answer that the ball costs ten cents, but in fact it costs five. If you gave the wrong answer, your brain created some shortcuts, but abandoned math through the process. In fact, more than 50 percent of students at Harvard, Princeton, and M.I.T. gave the incorrect answer (Clondliffe, 2013). Another study in the book, Writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, explains that “more cognitively sophisticated participants showed larger bias blind spots” (Clondliffe, 2013).
This means that students are more susceptible to making these basic mistakes, because their minds automatically shorten the process of getting an answer through shortcuts. These studies prove how the most astute students can get lower scores, because of the rush in answering the problems in a standardized test. Another issue IQ tests raise, is that schools may take so much time in teaching their students how to take these tests, that they will lose proper learning time . In the article, Testing More, Teaching Less, researchers looked closely at one school district in the Midwest and one in the East. They found that test prep and testing absorbed 19 full school days in one district and a month and a half in the other (Strauus, 2010). If testing were abandoned, one school district in this study could add from 20 to 40 minutes of instruction to each school day for most grades (Strauus, 2010). The amount of time schools are taking on these IQ tests, that don’t even measure you’re mental capacity properly, is excessive and inundating students.
However, IQ tests seem to help classify students that may need extra and special needs. Sometimes if a teacher believes a student may need special needs services they may ask the student to take an assessment. This assessment is most likely in the form of a standardized test. If a student does qualify for special education, the school will make a plan for his/her education. This plan is called an individual education program. The school needs the information from an evaluation to write the individual plan for the student. Another argument is that IQ tests can prove if a child is “gifted” or advanced in their learning skills. Stanford University’s Lewis Terman invented the term “gifted child” in the early part of the 20th century, who also created the first test to calculate one’s intelligence (Carpenter, 2010). Some identify children with IQs from 145 and 160 as “highly” gifted, and those between 160 and 180 are “exceptionally” gifted (Carpenter, 2010).
Taking these tests can give advantages to students who were tested higher than average scores, because they can be put in classes that truly expand their knowledge. The controversy on IQ tests has caused much discussion about whether they truly evaluate student’s understanding or create many benefits for children that test lower or higher than average scores. Even though these tests do not show your full capacity to understand concepts, colleges still use these tests as a major reference to see if you are capable of enduring their college’s courses. Because SAT scores have gone up every year, colleges have lowered their acceptance rates. It would be very hard for a colleges like Harvard or Yale to remain known as an “elite” Ivy League institution if people were made aware that they would accept students with mediocre SAT scores. This factor means that many colleges are almost forced to give a lot of weight to SAT scores in their decisions, even if the admissions team personally feels that SAT scores aren’t particularly a good indicator of academic potential.
Because of this, seven of the eight colleges and universities that make up the Ivy League have lowered their acceptance rates since last year (Abrams, 2013). The overall acceptance rate fell below 7 percent at Columbia and Yale last year (Abrams, 2013). These rates don’t only apply to Ivy league schools, but all colleges across the world. In addition, the pressure to do well on these test can cause students to result to any means. “Anxiety about dwindling test scores becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as students may exhibit extreme emotional and physical stress under pressure. Such high stakes can also encourage cheating by both students and teachers alike,” Chavous, an author and former politician, argues. In one case a high school graduate was paid about $2000 by 6 current high school seniors to take the SAT for them, which conclusively got them higher scores (SAT Pressure, 2013). These students are now facing misdemeanor charges for doing this. This case proves how the stress can evoke students to such extremes, because they simply want to go to college.
Although there are some down sides, standard colleges would not have an efficient way to determine what the qualifications and which applicants meet the criteria. High school grading has a tendency of teachers giving higher grades then in the past. According to research, in 1987 students with an A minus or above grade point average was at 27% and in 1996 jumped to 36% (College Entrance Exams, 2011). At the same time the average score on entrance exams, such as SAT and ACT, dropped 15 points (College Entrance Exams, 2011). The SAT seems to be a rational way to get a sense of if their school’s grading system was easier or harder than of that college’s. Entrance exams also provide students with better feedback about their own level of knowledge and skills. It helps students to associate personal effort with rewards and motivates them to work harder in school.
The testing and its feedback send clearer signals to students about what they need to study. Seeing where you may have scored lower in, is very beneficial because it can also influence what career you may want to pursue. If you see you scored high on the mathematics section, it may convince you that you could be a good engineer or tax audit. The acknowledgement of your strengths could help you chose what you want to study in college, thus helping you prepare for your future. In addition to making it harder to get into colleges, standardized tests have proven to be biased towards whites and Asian. Many students who have taken the SAT believe that the new writing components actually will widen the racial scoring gap even further. They contend that this will happen because only 50 percent of black students who take the SAT have taken English composition classes while in high school (The Widening Racial Scoring Gap, n.d.).
This compares to 67 percent for white test takers (The Widening Racial Scoring Gap, n.d.). Other commentators express the view that the new test will worsen the results for blacks on the theory that, for cultural reasons, blacks on the whole possess writing skills that are materially inferior to those of whites. Studies have also shown that whites with ancestors of high income and a college degree score higher than all African Americans. Whites from families with incomes below $10,000 had an SAT test score that was 61 points higher than blacks whose families had incomes of between $80,000 and $100,000 (The Widening Racial Scoring Gap, n.d.). Public schools in many neighborhoods with large black populations are underfunded, inadequately staffed, and ill equipped to provide the same quality of secondary education that is offered in predominantly white suburban school districts.
Although research has proven the bias, it has recently been available to put your ethnicity on your test to give you a slight advantage. When you decide to put your race on any standardized test, it automatically makes you appeal to colleges and schools. Colleges are always striving for a diverse community, so they may chose to accept a minority rather than a white student even if they have the same test scores. Another important argument is that most students believe standardized tests are fair. A June 2006 Public Agenda survey of 1,342 public school students in grades 6-12 found that 71% of students think the number of tests they have to take is “about right” and 79% believe test questions are fair (Pro con, 2014).
The 2002 edition of the survey found that “virtually all students say they take the tests seriously and more than half (56 percent) say they take them very seriously.” (Pro con, 2014). If students, who are the ones taking the tests and receiving the grades, believe these tests are fair and just then they most likely are. Since IQ tests don’t fully prove the intelligence of a student, lessens your chances of getting into college, and is bias towards certain racial groups, schools shouldn’t give IQ tests to children. Because these tests were made to trick you mentally and not focus on the process of getting to an answer, they are not very beneficial in calculating someone’s intellect. Colleges also seem to look at these test as a denied or accepted factors, which lowers students access to colleges. Lastly, these tests are proven to be biased towards different racial groups because of ancestor background. With these main points into consideration, schools should find other ways to conclude student’s knowledge level and capability to learn new skills. If schools and teachers stop using IQ tests, our youth will benefit far greater and reach new accomplishments that these tests restricted on them.