Nonstandardized Environments

Max Ehrenfreund shares some research out of Israel suggesting that “random events during an exam can affect not only test results, but college and career options and income for the rest of a student’s life”:

The authors of the [NBER working] paper studied test results for the Bagrut, a series of tests similar to the SAT that Israelis take when they finish high school. They compared those results to data on the students’ future earnings and to air pollution measurements on the day they took the test. They found that even a moderate increase in the level of air pollution on the days of the test reduced students’ incomes by about 2 percent by the time they became adults. That’s right: Air pollution had a small effect on test scores, but the ramifications of those small differences throughout students’ lives affected their careers and their incomes.

The findings prompt Max Nisen to question the logic of high-stakes standardized tests:

The authors argue these tests can lead to inefficient allocation of talent if a bad score matches a high-ability person with the wrong career or educational institution. The alternative is to reduce the random element, to diminish the importance of high-stakes tests in favor of the overall record. The high-stakes system, prevalent around the world, manages to create a tremendous amount of stress for no particular reason.