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The allure of testing lies in its apparent neutrality—its democratic indifference to a student’s background and wealth. But this is not how the current system functions. Success correlates closely to socioeconomic advantages and access to test preparation. Pricey services offer tutoring to ever younger children. (There is a niche industry of consultants who help two-year-olds ace their preschool admissions assessments.) Yet many defenders of testing believe that more subjective forms of evaluation present their own unfairness. 

Outside the neutral language of policy reports, the issue of testing is debated in a context of winners and losers, of model minorities and problematic ones.