The most prominent reason why people support keeping standardized testing the way that it is now is that it provides a seemingly fair way to test students on their general knowledge and preparedness level. If each student goes to class, is taught the same material, and studies that material to the point of understanding, then all students should be equally prepared for the tests, and should do relatively well. Success is seen as a matter of effort: the more time a student dedicates to studying and understanding the material provided for them in the classroom, the better they will do on the exams, demonstrating a higher preparedness for the next level of education. If a student is struggling to understand material or scoring on the lower end of the spectrum, then the only solution is to dedicate more time to studying, and simply try harder.
This, however, is not the case when it comes to certain students. Learning disabilities such as ADHD and dyslexia greatly inhibit a student’s abilities to perform well on these tests, which has nothing to do with the amount of effort that the student is putting into learning and understanding material. Although there are federal laws in place that require students with learning disabilities to receive certain accommodations and auxiliary aids that should help them to perform better on these examinations, the specific accommodations are a source of contention, and students often don’t receive all of the aid that they should. Regulations are uneven across states, and legal challenges are constantly being made on behalf of students who suffer from learning disabilities to bring about more reasonable accommodations on high-stakes standardized tests. There are also no cost-effective opportunities for remediation in place for when a student fails to pass one of these tests. Studies have shown that the economic costs of helping students with learning deficits to pass tests such as the SATs and ACTs are often overlooked, and, in reality, can be cripplingly high. It is shown that, without any real mastery of a subject, scores can increase with repetition, so remediation should be targeted to the skill and knowledge deficit that is reflected in the exam, so that understanding can increase and a mastery of the subject can be accomplished.
Students in urban areas are also at a disadvantage, since they often have access to fewer resources when it comes to test preparation in general. Schools in these areas are, under the No Child Left Behind Act, the ones that must achieve the largest increase in test scores, and therefore must designate more and more in-class time to standardized test preparation each year, which forces teachers to teach according to the test, and forces students to make a substantially larger commitment to preparation and studying than their suburban counterparts, both in and outside of the classroom. This sentiment is best represented by a quote by Robert Schaeffer, the public education director at the National Center for Fair and Open Testing: he says “in those kinds of schools, the curriculum becomes test prep: doing worksheets and practice tests and getting ready for the big test.” A recent report released by the Center for American Progress has shown that students in these areas spend as much as 266 percent more time studying and preparing for tests, a commitment that many students cannot make. There is only so much class time that can be dedicated to test prep, and at the cost of the quality of the student’s education, no less. So, in short, standardized tests can, in no way, be considered to be an equal playing field, since it places so many subgroups of students at a disadvantage, and fails to provide them with the resources that would allow them to achieve higher scores.
These examples show that certain groups of students are left behind by standardized tests: they are unable to keep up with other students, and therefore fall behind. They are then faced with another challenge when they are forced to take the same tests as students that are doing perfectly well in school and can understand the material well. They are therefore sort of left behind twice, once in the classroom, and then again when they are faced with standardized tests.