Junior year is considered to be the most stressful year of high school because of the enormous amount of testing and pressure put on students. First, we have to take tests in the regular core and elective classes on our schedule, and then we have to take AP tests, PSATs, SATs, ACTs, SAT IIs for many, and other miscellaneous standardized tests– such as the newly instituted PARCC– that vary by state or country. There has been an increased emphasis on testing over the past years and it’s taken a toll on the mindset of students: instead of aiming to learn, students are now aiming to pass tests. And teachers are being forced to rewire their lesson plans to accommodate these new testing requirements.
Gone are the days when students were genuinely interested in subjects taught in school, because, well, they’re just not really being taught anymore. Gone are the days, also, when teachers had the ability to launch into anecdotes or excited lectures on interesting topics, because there’s simply no time for that. Maybe there’s a test coming up on Thursday, or “This isn’t on the AP test so we’re going to skip over it,” or there’s statewide standardized testing that’s cutting into class time so material is being sacrificed. In especially these last two instances, neither the student nor the teacher wins.
The issue with AP classes is that, for the most part, the classes are dedicated to passing the big bad AP test at the end of the year. Too often, teachers skip over entire chapters in the textbooks because the material is not covered on the test. This is a shame since AP classes have the potential to be very enriching and significant in helping to determine future paths of education/deciding what you want to study in college. The need to pass the test to get college credit usually outweighs the desire to learn in AP classes. This is problematic because, once again, a test determines everything, and also because you should want to actually learn in class. I see why the AP test is necessary in order to get college credit in some instances, but many teachers and students fall victim to teaching (or I guess “learning”) to the test.
(Check out Madeline’s “6 Reasons To Stop Stressing About APs“)
Of course, there’s also the SAT/ACT, and again, I see why there needs to be a standardized aspect to college applications. However, the stress among at least my peers to do well on these tests is unreal. It’s slightly ridiculous that we spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on test prep for a day where we sit down for a few hours and fill in some bubbles, but that’s the sad reality of this aspect of the college admissions process. There are businesses profiting off of the stress our society puts on these “high stakes” standardized tests, and all for what? To get a slightly better SAT/ACT score than the other ton of applicants to this or that college? It’s really not worth the stress when you step back from the situation, and as long as you are a well rounded and genuine person I’m sure you’ll get into some amazing schools anyway.
The last type of test that contributes unnecessarily to the stress of junior year is statewide standardized testing. For example, I just took the PARCC recently, missing out on Precalculus, AP Biology, Spanish class, and part of lunch. I now have less time to ask questions in class for our upcoming math test and my teacher had to postpone our Bio quiz because there were enough of us testing today. The library has been shut down for weeks during lunch, preventing students from accessing computers and having a place to study. And just the test itself was very stressful — all of the questions were extremely vague and open to interpretation, and there were no clear guidelines for the essays. Overall, it’s just another unnecessary test that cuts into learning time.
I think that it’s time for a real change to occur in schools. The competition is getting out of hand, more tests are being crammed into our lives, and kids, especially juniors, are more stressed than ever. This whole system needs to be reworked, because it’s only getting worse.