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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Standardized tests can’t measure performance of college students

    As a junior in high school, I was obsessed with the College Board website. I would spend multiple hours a day skimming through college after college seeing if my SAT scores, GPA and extracurriculars matched up. Then I chose the UA, the least prestigious of my college choices.

    When high school students look at all of their potential college options, they may be bombarded with statistics and ratings, but left ignorant about one particular important factor in the college decision: how well colleges actually teach their students. It’s difficult to measure, but standardized tests aren’t the way to do it.

    Roughly 40 percent of the U.S. News and World Report college rankings are based on admission selectivity, average SAT score and reputation. The other 60 percent is based on graduation and dropout rates. These are hardly a measure of how well a school teaches.

    Every year the UA admits plenty of idiots from both in and out of state that cannot handle the workload, the freedom or both. But these students don’t represent the UA or the quality of education it can offer.

    While more prestigious institutions may be able to attract better-known professors, this does not necessarily mean that these professors are the best teachers. They can be too involved in their research to focus on teaching. Furthermore, the best teachers are ones who may have struggled a bit when learning the material they’re teaching — they understand the process of learning better.

    So while Harvard may be the top-ranked university in the country, it doesn’t necessarily mean that its students learn the most.

    With that in mind, the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability hopes to implement a way to measure how much college students actually learn. Early this year, the New Leadership Alliance released guidelines that pushed for colleges to systematically “gather evidence of student learning” and release the results.

    The standardized test — the epitome of all that is wrong in school — is hardly a method for accurately measuring how much students are learning.

    While standardized tests may be a way to measure students from across the country in a uniform way, it would be hard to measure what a student learns in college on a standardized test. You may be able to test writing ability or basic math skills, but those are covered in the GRE.

    Another problem with standardized tests in college is that everyone is learning different things. While everyone is required to take general education classes, the classes here differ from those at other state universities. The students at the University of Maine probably don’t have too many classes on the American Southwest or Mexican heritage.

    Still, the most glaring problem is that the most important things you are learning in college aren’t measureable on a multiple-choice test. College is about preparing you for the real world.

    I may have chosen the least prestigious of the schools I was accepted to, but that doesn’t mean I will learn less than someone at a more prestigious one. The UA has a lot of great teachers who focus on getting us to learn rather than on their research.

    The attempt to judge how much we learn may be a valiant effort on the part of the New Leadership Alliance, but if it means students sitting in a room for multiple hours and filling in tiny bubbles, it can wait until a better idea comes along. For now, we just have to have faith that we are learning just as much as the students at Stanford University.

    On the bright side, we’ll always be learning more than Arizona State University.

    — Dan Desrochers is a chemistry freshman. He can be reached at or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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