Standardized Testing

Standardized testing has its purpose, but does it need a serious overhaul?

2/20/20241 min read

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us! (That was sarcasm)

“What is the most wonderful time of the year?” you may ask. Testing season, of course!

Standardized tests do have their purpose. Whether good, bad, or somewhere in between, colleges and Universities use ACT and SAT scores for admissions. You can make the argument that these assessments also prepare students for larger tests down the line, such as the MCAT or LSAT.

However, these “valuable” instruments have significant dark sides. Beyond the annoyance they cause teachers and administrators in giving these tests, they are severely invalid and unreliable at assessing students’ knowledge and capability.

In a study by Maroun and Tienken, published this year (2024), it was found that there was an indirect relationship between an aspect of student background and standardized test scores. Any idea what that aspect was? I’ll tell you: family capital. That’s right, they found that the more a family makes, the better students do on standardized tests.

Why? The more income a family has, the higher the ability for them to spend more on testing services, like tutoring and test prep. That’s a no-brainer. But, what struck me that Maroun and Tienken found is that the more income a family has, the more experiences students are likely to have. Think about it. High-income families go on more vacations than low-income families. What comes with that? Flying on planes, taking trains, seeing animals not native to their area, eating foods that they weren’t aware of previously. The list goes on. According to Maroun and Tienken, because students from low-income families don’t get to experience the same thing as their wealthier classmates, these students don’t have the same background knowledge to add relevance to the questions that ask about them.

Standardized testing needs to be changed. The inadvertent (or perhaps even intentional) discrimination needs to be addressed. We’re only further adding hardships to already disadvantaged students. They’re stuck in the perpetual rut of inequity with no way out.

Having this knowledge enables me to better advocate, while on the Fenton School Board, for sufficient district-provided testing preparation to give those disadvantaged students a fighting chance.


Maroun, J.; Tienken, C.H. (2024) The pernicious predictability of state-mandated tests of academic achievement in the United States. Education Sciences, 14(129)