Who Benefits from Standardized Testing?

Standardized testing has become a fundamental part of the American education system. Students are tested frequently from elementary school, through high school. Many people believe that these standardized tests establish a valuable and accurate measure of students success.

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However, others say they do more harm than good by limiting the scope of education. There are numerous sources which benefit from standardized testing, For instance; college admission, public schools, large testing companies, test preparation companies, and more. We align standardized tests and the results of them, with achievement, intelligence, aptitude, and understanding. Those who oppose our standardized testing culture spit back all the things you cannot sufficiently summarize by filling in a bubble, arguing that these tests aren’t examinations of realistic ability, but rather, an unreliable way of forcing rank. Tests like the ACT and SAT are often met with annoyance, dread or indifference. Nevertheless, standardized tests have certain benefits. Some are obvious, such as helping applicants gain admission to a college or university, along with possible scholarship opportunities. In addition (source here) states that “Popular academic course options like Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and dual enrollment, in which a student enrolls in college courses and earns college credit while still in high school, while it is also possible to earn credit with just a standardized test score.” Furthermore, Students will take tests throughout their college careers. While the nature of these tests may change at the university level, the content on AP, ACT and SAT exams, are intended to help prepare high school students for the rigors of college.

First and foremost, on the topic of education. colleges and universities benefit from standardized testing on a multitude of levels. Colleges and universities can use test scores to get a broad idea of a student’s academic ability. For many college admission officers, standardized tests provide a neutral yardstick for gauging student potential and performance. Admission tests apply a common standard to everyone. This helps colleges evaluate and compare the preparation of students who go to different high schools. All schools do not offer the same academic programs, learning environments or even expectations. Colleges look at your test scores, along with your high school grades and courses, to see how well prepared you are for college-level work. College admission officers try to get a complete picture of who you are, what you’ll bring to their campus and how you might do on their campus. They look at many parts of your application besides your test scores, such as; high school grades, high school courses, extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, application essays, and more. The importance of test scores in the admission process varies from college to college and depends on an institution’s admission approach and policies. Each college has its own policy. Some colleges, including more selective colleges, may place a high level of importance on test scores, within the context of the other parts of your application. Other colleges, including many community colleges, may not require a test or use your scores at all. Equally important, states that “In addition to using ACT scores as a quick, easy way to compare students in their applicant pool, colleges also use ACT test scores as a way of determining a student’s aptitude in different academic subjects. A score of 32 on the ACT Math Test, for example, may tell colleges that a student is ready to tackle the higher-level mathematics of their college program, while a score of 21 might tell them that a particular student may not quite have the proficiency they need. ACT test scores let schools see where a student stands on a broad academic spectrum, and decide if that student would be able to succeed at their institution.”

On the other hand, standardized testing is an extremely profitable business. Around this time of the year, tens of thousands of high school juniors are frantically signing up for SAT prep classes, buying expensive AP guidebooks, and paying for the SATs, AP exams, and SAT subject tests. Profits for all companies involved are exorbitant, but one company, in particular, stands out with an enormous revenue of $200,000,000 dollars and a profit of $62,000,000. And what company would that be? None other than the College Board, a “”not-for-profit”” company that capitalizes off of students’ anxieties. let’s take a look at the compensation of the chief executives of three very large education non-profit organizations heavily involved in standardized testing. The College Entrance Examination Board, known as the College Board, which owns the SAT college admissions exam and the Advanced Placement program; the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT and AP exams for the College Board as well as other assessments for other organizations); and ACT, Inc., which owns the ACT college admissions and also is responsible for other tests and programs. It’s easy to mistake big non-profits such as these as for-profit companies because they operate in a similar fashion. They pay their top people a lot of money, charge fees for their services, make investments, market and lobby legislators. So how well do their executives do financially? In actuality, they are doing quite well financially, and many of their subordinates do just fine, as well. According to the latest publicly available 990 tax forms filed to the IRS by the three organizations, which operate under 501(c)3 tax exempt status because of their declared educational missions:

Kurt Landgraf, now the former president and chief executive officer of the Educational Testing Service, earned for the 2013 fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2013: $1,307,314 in reportable compensation and $42,210 in estimated other compensation from the organization and related organizations. Jon Whitmore, the chief executive officer of ACT, earned for the 2013 fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2014: $672,853 in salary, plus a bonus of $150,000, and other reportable compensation of $12,949, plus retirement contributions of $57,152, plus other nontaxable benefits of $18,109. That’s a total of $911,073. David Coleman, the president, and chief executive officer of the College Board, as well as a trustee, earned for the 2013 fiscal year ending June 30, 2014: $690,854 in reportable compensation plus $43,338 in other compensation from the organization and related organizations. Total: $734,192.

In 1999, the College Board was facing cash-flow difficulties, so they recruited Gaston Caperton, former governor of West Virginia, to transform the nonprofit company into a thriving business. Fourteen years later, the College Board holds a complete monopoly over the test-taking industry. Many students are required to take an SAT, or ACT subject test in order to apply to certain schools, and all students wishing to earn college credit for an Advanced Placement class must take the corresponding AP exam, which the College Board creates. Therefore, it makes sense that its profits are 317% of the industry average and its former President, Mr. Capteron, earned 444% of the industry average at a compensation of $1.3 million last year. Its newly chosen President, David Coleman, will earn a base salary of $550,000, with total compensation of nearly $750,000. Additionally, College Board’s 23 executives make an average of $355,271 per year. These high salaries are extremely suspicious. If the College Board truly wished to create testing equality for everyone, wouldn’t it pay its executives less and instead use those profits to lower the cost of the SAT for all? Why is this company considered a nonprofit if its motives aren’t completely altruistic?

Furthermore, on the subject of financial benefit for large companies, the College Board will tack on all kinds of extra fees for certain services, including the “”Rush Order””, exam date changes, and the “”question-and-answer”” service. On the College Board website, the company even attempts to sell all sorts of products, including The Official SAT Study Guide for $31.99. Although the SAT registration cost itself can be waived for low-income students, the costs of these special services are not, as a result giving high-income students an edge when preparing for the SAT and completing college applications. It’s becoming questionable whether the College Board is, in fact, dedicated to an “”equity agenda”” of “”expanding access to higher education for the poor, African-Americans, and Hispanic.”” If the College Board truly wanted an equal testing experience for everybody, it would offer all of these extra services for free to those who cannot afford them. Does it really seem fair that one student can afford an SAT study guide, produced by the test-maker, while another cannot? Those students with the right amount of money reap the benefits, while the others are left in the dust. What both sides have left out in terms of how standardized tests align themselves, whether they are measures of intelligence or oppositional forces to that intelligence, is business.

As of 2011, Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board, non-profit owner of SAT, was paid $1.3 million. Richard Ferguson, former executive officer of ACT Inc., made roughly $1.1 million. Meanwhile, The National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy at Boston College reported that the value of the standardized testing market was anywhere between $400 million and $700 million. (Janet Lorin – Washington Post)

At their core, standardized tests are not equalizers. Contrary to a still-persisting popular belief, they do not offer an “equal opportunity” learning environment, which college board says they have tried to obtain. It turns out, academic conformity sells, and business is booming.

Perhaps even more questionable is the accuracy of these tests in measuring one’s “”aptitude.”” Director of undergraduate writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Les Perelman, looked over around 50 sample essays from the SAT distributed by the College Board and found a very strong correlation between length and score. “”If you just graded them based on length without ever reading them, you’d be right over 90 percent of the time,””( Michael Winerip, Washington Post.) A report released a while ago by the National Council of Teachers mirrored Dr. Perelman’s criticisms; it warns that the SAT is pushing for a formulaic way of writing and that students don’t have time to rewrite on the 25-minute essay section. a major error when measuring one’s editing abilities. This style of testing just promotes conformity; in order to succeed in the essay, students must ignore their inner creativity and instead churn out mechanical, structured responses.

We can hardly consider standardized tests education. They enforce ideas of academic success and future prosperity that are as outrageous as the profit the testing industry rolls in from dependent schools and families. We see dollar signs where we should see the opportunity to teach human beings. It’s quite clear that the College Board has acquired some major flaws over the past ten or so years. Not only has it given wealthier students an edge over their low-income peers, but it also doesn’t accurately test certain abilities. In short, this “”nonprofit”” company has gone completely downhill.

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