Editorial: high cost of standardized testing preventing equal access to public education

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In the early twentieth century, American public schools introduced programs that would allow for a free high school education, which was practically unheard of at the time. It showed a high level of American progressiveness and an ability to be at the epicenter of change on a global scale.

President Obama mentioned this during his 2015 State of the Union, during which he unveiled his ideas for free two-year community college for all recent high school graduates. It is a very liberal proposal, considering the tax dollars that would be necessary to implement this policy, but it has shown to be extremely popular with students of all ages and backgrounds.

This so called “free” education has already proven to be an essential part of the success of American students, but there are still problems within the system that keep it from being truly “free.”

As many SLVHS students are finding out as the March 25 deadline approaches, the so-called cost effective AP classes offered at a public school level still cost the student $95 per test. With many students taking more than three of these classes, it can quickly become quite costly. Not only are students requested to pay the $95 fee out of pocket, but the tests are also during the time period that juniors are asked to take standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT.

As it becomes increasingly harder to find a job, college education is now a necessity. While community college can be a nice alternative for many students, sometimes only four-year universities can give many students the education they need in order to succeed in their preferred careers. However, a student can often only apply to these four year schools by taking these high-priced classes and tests, which unfairly bases a system on wealth, not intelligence.

Families that can afford these tests and classes often have parents who are already educated and affluent. Students who come from a poor background are at a disadvantage in this way, and are often not able to take the tests to get credit for their classes due to their price tags.

There are support systems at SLVHS for these students, but it is already difficult for them to take AP classes. The average American employee works about fifty hours per week, the highest of all first world countries. But according to Forbes, minimum wage workers would only earn about $500 per week on their salaries. This means that poorer families are forced to work more hours for the same pay.

This is a predicament for many American teens with after-school jobs who simply cannot find the time for the increased workload of AP classes. With these kinds of schedules, they often cannot find the time to finish their homework, and thus lower-class students are known for receiving lower grades than their richer peers.

For this reason, American schools need to create more support systems for AP students who wish to go to college. Earlier this year, several California school districts have introduced plans to implement practically free SATs for all students, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News. While this does come at a higher cost for the local taxpayer, the benefits are outstanding.

According to The Economist, students who go to college earn, on average, more than one million dollars more in their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. It was also reported in 2015 by US News, that within the next decade there will be a lack of educated workers in growing STEM fields— where some of the highest paying careers are found.

A lack of workers means that jobs go undone, and the only solution for this is more qualified employees. This means more students need to go to college than ever before in order to satisfy the demand.

In 2015, the United States was ranked as 25 out of 34 first world countries in the world for mathematics, 17 in science, and 14 for language arts in a study done by the Huffington Post. The highest test scores were from Finland, a country known for its extensive list of benefits for students.

In Finland, teaching is considered more honorable a profession that being a doctor or lawyer, and most teachers make six figure salaries. According to the Smithsonian, schools are small, and homework is uncommon in Finland. In Finland, the effects of altering the school system to best serve the students has had amazing results for both student performance and overall happiness.

A study done recently by BBC News found that Finland, and other similar nordic countries, were the happiest on earth, Denmark being ranked at number one. Despite the huge amount of evidence that supports altering the school system to better serve the student, the United States continue to implement programs that focus only on test scores.

The problems that persist in the school system will not be answered with a new form of the SAT, or the Common Core standards, or any of the recent policies that have been introduced. The answer lies in listening to the students and taking education more seriously for them.

The students of SLVHS and all high school students across the country are the future of business, politics, and the country at whole. By putting a high price on necessary testing for proficient education, we are failing the future of this country. Education is the most important part of a successful democracy. Until we start acting like it, the American education system will remain corrupt and continue to fail its students.

By Serena Mendoza

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