Recently, Sam Eshaghoff, the Long Island teen guilty of taking standardized tests for his classmates, was interviewed by 60 Minutes and hardly seemed remorseful for actions. In the interview he stated, “I feel confident defending the fact that [my clients] getting into the schools that they ended up getting into didn’t really affect other people.”
At the risk of sounding morally compromised, I’m on his side. Standardized testing is an outdated and unreliable assessment of one’s knowledge, and the amount of importance placed on achievement on these exams creates a cut-throat atmosphere for students.
Currently, students are being tested at an unprecedented level and never before has testing played such a large role in the American education system. The widespread distribution of standardized tests has been a commonplace since the early 1960s and was originally used to level the playing field for underprivileged students. Recently, however, standardized testing has morphed into a privatized industry with a general disregard for student achievement.
At the same time, the American education system uses standardized test scores to evaluate schools and reward schools with higher test scores. With government benefits as an incentive, educators are forced to place an emphasis on tests that are only capable of evaluating shallow thought processes and general knowledge.
Progressive education specialist Alfie Kohn comments, “It turned out that high scores … were more likely to be found among students who exhibited the superficial approach to learning … as a rule, it appears that standardized-test results are positively correlated with a shallow approach to learning.”
Essentially, students are being encouraged to have a more shallow approach to learning in order to keep schools afloat and to get into college when in reality these tests are not capable of measuring their true capabilities. However, many students are put at an automatic disadvantage as tests are shown to be prejudiced against minorities, females, and those with common learning disabilities such as ADD or Dyslexia.
While a rising majority of education specialists have condemned the over-emphasis of standardized testing, it appears that students are more competitive than ever. When Eshaghoff began his SAT scam he had a bevy of clients paying him upwards of $2,500 per test. Like most students, Eshaghoff understands the importance of these tests and how they affect student achievement after high school, “… by giving him an amazing score, I totally give him this…new lease on life. He’s gonna go to a totally new college. He’s gonna be bound for a totally new career and a totally new path on life,” Eshaghoff said in regards to one of his clients. It’s alarming that a test that can barely assess one’s true understanding of subject material carries enough weight to make students cheat.
It’s true that Eshaghoff’s scam was illegal. Yet at the same time, it’s a flawed system that puts many at a disadvantage, and Eshaghoff saw profitability in aiding his peers. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but hopefully Eschaghoff has proven that current practices in education are flawed and that standardized tests are counterproductive to student achievement.
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