It is safe to say that if you lived in the U.S., and went to a public school, you would most likely have taken a standardized test. I can also say without a doubt that because you are reading this for a college class, that you took the SAT or ACT, or both at least once. In either case you, your parents, or teachers were asked to dole out money to take theses tests. Not only that you were probably asked to also buy the accompanying practice book to help study for these tests. This is something that many people have to go through. paying money to corporations designed to make money off of tests that can determine your future. With that said many people don’t know anything about these corporations.
Currently there are four major corporations that dominate the standardized testing industry, three test publishers and one scoring firm. Chances are you have probably heard of them at some point but never paid them any mind. The four corporations are Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTB McGraw-Hill, Riverside Publishing (a Houghton Mifflin company), and NCS Pearson. In 2001 the first three agencies accounted for 96% of the tests administered, while Pearson was the leading scoring agency of those tests. The business of standardized tests has become a very lucrative. In 1955 the estimated income from standardized testing was $7 million. By 1997 that number sky rocketed to $263 million. This is a 3ooo% increase. Today it is estimated that the industry is worth between $400 and $700 million.
This is a lot of money to be putting into an industry that has been heavily scrutinized for the effectiveness of its product. In fact a 2001 investigation by the New York Times documented the test flaws for all four agencies between 1997 and 1998. In all, states reported over two dozen incidences in which the test or the agency disrupted the states testing systems or incorrectly scored a students test. For a complete breakdown of the study conducted by the New York Times you can go to None of the Above: The Test Industry’s Failures.
This data is not only troubling, but it is having negative life altering effects for many children. Recently the state of Florida past a law regarding standardized tests. The law states that in order for a child to move on from third to fourth grade they must preform well on a standardized reading exam. So, instead of sending a kid to the next grade level with their merit earned through homework or overall class grades. A student is now forced to preform well on one test. Depending on how they do it could effect so many aspects of their lives. If one fails this test they are subjected to repeating the third grade with a whole new class. Supporters of the law say that it ensures that kids move on to the next grade with the skills to succeed in life, like reading. However; many students some honors students have opted not to take the test. Their parents have even opened a lawsuit against the state to remove the requirement to pass the test.
To me, there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing corporations to make a profit off the education system. I personally dealt with taking standardized tests and from my perspective they did not help at all. I think as a nation we need to make it illegal to profit off of these tests especially if we are requiring them to move on to the next grade academically.