Is it fair?

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           I wouldn’t profess myself to be a real “test-taker.” Sure, I do well enough on standardized tests, but I enjoy more essay and project-type assignments rather than tests because there’s more room for creativity and expression. However, it should be pointed out that a test in subjects such as math and chemistry, which rely on solving equations, are very objective: either the answer is right or it’s wrong. Because of this, such a test is completely fair, for every student needs to produce the same answer and the teacher’s opinion of the answer or student is absolutely irrelevant. I have never heard one of my friends complain that he or she felt “cheated” on a math test; it’s graded in a very black-and-white manner. Yet, in subjects such as History and English, in which students are required to do a fair amount of writing, there is nothing “black-and-white” about a student’s response because every response is different, but multiple responses are correct. So, how do students feel about this?

            As it turns out, fewer students are worried about the test grading process than other aspects of the classroom experience. For example, even though an essay test doesn’t have one “right” answer, there is always criteria listed on the exam that explains what the teacher expects out of the essay. The only potential issue there is that the teacher can decide whether or not an essay meets such criteria. Still, the students with whom I’ve spoken have made it clear that they are relatively happy with how their tests (in all subjects) are being graded, but believe that they don’t receive fair treatment in other areas.

            There is a policy that is in effect in schools all over the country that allows for students with learning disabilities to receive extra time on assessments; this can be anywhere from an additional 25% of the extra time to 50% added to the assessment. Certainly, this is a useful option for students with such a disadvantage, and while many people know that there is this “extra time” policy, what many people don’t know are the terms of it. For example, after calling the Princeton Review, I found out that there is no notation on someone’s transcript if he or she uses extra time on tests because it pertains to a medical condition. Of course, medical information should be kept private, but not when it comes into play in the classroom.

            Here’s a scenario: I am five and a half feet tall. When I play basketball, no one lowers the hoop for me or gives me extra time to take a shot; instead, I need to work on building up my calf muscles so I can jump higher, improve my agility to evade opponents, and improve my accuracy because I hardly get the chance to take close shots. Granted, I’m pretty terrible at basketball, but the point is that I have a disadvantage, but I combat it on my own time. The issue I have with the extra time policy is that people can work on improving their skills on their own time, but when it comes to extra time on tests, people are given an advantage in the heat of the moment.

            Also, as aforementioned, there is nothing written on a person’s transcript or test when he or she uses extra time. While I believe it is important to aid people in overcoming their disadvantages, there’s the issue of what happens when it comes to competition. Yes, the college application process is a competition; when someone who uses extra time scores higher on the SAT’s than someone who did not use extra time (yes, you can get extra time on the standardized tests), is it fair? And if it’s fair, shouldn’t there at least be some “mark” on the test with extra time so that it can be fair for everyone? After all, wouldn’t it be unfair if one person uses forty minutes for a test and another uses eighty without any sort of difference between their results?

            So yes, while some people do need extra time and I have nothing wrong with leveling the playing field, there needs to be a line drawn. We shouldn’t lower the hoop for people, but help them learn how to jump higher.

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