The Support from Standardized Tests: High School Graduates Unprepared to be College Freshmen

Part 4 of a 5 part series – The Beginning of Information Illiteracy. See Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3


High school students are not guaranteed success in college when they have completed college-preparatory courses (Conley, p. 4). Preparation for the graduate would come from their high school’s curriculum that would: (a) measure student academic progress; (b) observe the methods in which states, districts, schools, principals, and teachers are educating students; and (c) observe teachers’ adjusting their educating styles (DOE, 2010 p. 8). In high school English, mathematics, and science courses, students have not been taught how “to draw inferences, interpret results, analyze conflicting source documents, support arguments with evidence, solve complex problems that have no obvious answer, draw conclusions, offer explanations, conduct research, and generally think deeply about what they are being taught.” (Conley, 2007c, p. 23).


College Board’s tests (ACCUPLACER®; ACT’s COMPASS®; ASSET®) and locally designed tests are commercial or standardized tests. These types of test have allowed the higher educational institutions to measure different issues that are covered in the test “but they do not have any specified or consistent cut score or level that designates readiness for credit-bearing courses” (Conley, 2010c, p. 5).

The test works only if it were aligned with the content covered in the entry-level courses of that institution. Unfortunately, college students are unfamiliar with their formats and high school administrators are not familiar with the content covered. It is because of this non-consistency that can cause students to be wrongly classified in developmental education or “pre” college courses (Conley, 2010c, p. 5-6).


As one study had shown, these types of tests cannot be the only way to determine what educational needs entering freshmen may have. Different tests can generate different results, for example, different profiles of what they lack can be generated. This is dependent on what content is covered by each test. These commercialized tests seem to lack “information on student key cognitive strategies and higher-order thinking in addition to some specific content knowledge areas” (Conley, 2010b, p.16).

Placement tests analyze students’ comprehension rates through short literary and nonfiction passages. The content used for their reading proficiency did not resemble any reading materials that would be found in their college textbooks (Conley,2010b, p. 16).


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Editor’s Note – this article first published in Computer Savviness – and republished with the author’s permission.

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