What Are We Testing

Decades ago, people weren’t subjected to standardized tests to do everything from getting into college to passing third grade. There was an assumption that the best candidates could be determined by looking at a person’s grades and trusting their teachers’ evaluations. Somewhere after WWII that changed. At first, standardized tests were necessary to get into college (SATs, ACTs,) and graduate school (MCATs, LSATs, GREs). Now, it seems like students aren’t allowed to pass anything without going through a round of standardized testing.

One of the big issues with standardized testing is that it can’t test the skills and abilities that students really need in life. It doesn’t matter if I can give some obscure date, but analyzing political rhetoric is a skill that should be taught. It should be taught, but how do you test it? A bubble can be filled out that shows a student knows what date a battle in the French-Indian War took place. There isn’t a bubble test for an analytical mind.

These tests are also taken as individuals; unfortunately for students, the vast majority of adulthood is spent as part of a team. While we’re preparing kids to be judged on what they can do by themselves, the focus on teamwork is lost. Too bad that in a work environment the focus is on how well you work as a team and being overly concerned with your individual abilities is more of a hindrance than a help. It’s yet another thing that we are telling children what will be important for their lives that has little, if anything, to do with what their lives will look like.

My kids will be opted out of testing. The tests don’t have any metric for what I think they need to be able to do in order to flourish in adulthood – critical thinking, ability to analyze, how to work as part of a group. That’s what schooling should be preparing for – adulthood and a career, not a test full of arbitrary information. All the facts in the tests can be googled now. Phones can calculate the quadratic equation, but if someone doesn’t know when or where to use it knowing what it is is irrelevant. Children’s heads and personalities are being shoved full of irrelevant facts, and we wonder why our education system is failing?

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F@*# Testing

Dear: Whoever thought all this testing was a good idea
From: A highly concerned parent
25 January 2016

Dear Standardized Testing Advocate,

Did you really think this was a good idea? In what world is it smart to have kids, not teenagers but small children, so stressed about standardized testing that they stop loving to learn? Kids’ minds are still developing – they aren’t standardized. One child is amazing at math and struggles into fifth grade with reading. Another can read at a college level in second grade but math is gibberish as far as he’s concerned.  That’s the wonderful thing about children. Their minds haven’t been beaten into submission; they still love to learn.

Children aren’t supposed to think that something is too hard. They should just think that they can’t do something yet because they haven’t mastered it.  To paraphrase the document that caused most of this, “no child” should believe they aren’t smart enough. Natural learners, children are more amazing in that way than adults.  Their minds are designed to make everything new and incredible, another chance to add to their knowledge bank.  Children should create, problem-solve, and play – not toil toward a defined, standardized, and sterilized finish line.

You seem to think, dear testing advocate, that instead of the awesomeness of childhood that just lasts for a short time kids should do grill and drill. Their efforts should be designed to prove the school is ‘teaching’ something.  This myriad process proves schools teach facts at the cost of learning and problem solving. Kids, their malleable minds hardened to the shape of their experiences, are carefully and mechanically formed under your tutelage into machines of regurgitation and memorization. Unfortunately, when they get jobs they’ll need critical thinking not the ingredients in the three sisters from a lesson on the Iroquois.

Eight, nine and ten year old children will trade in a need to recite the gross national product of Canada for the too-little taught requirement of how to handle stress.  The importance of testing is stressed to the kids, children who understand the process but cannot separate that from the prefabricated message.  Holographic learners, they understand so clearly without knowing that they take that stress on as their own.

My daughter’s school does a party for the third graders after testing because the kids are so wound-up that they need to decompress after six days of standardized testing. At least the kids’ stress is standardized, right?

I wasn’t tested like this in school – the ERB’s, SAT’s, and ACT’s were the extent of what I had to do. Guess what? I still received a good education. Heaven only knows how – there wasn’t an SOL every few years to make sure I wasn’t ‘falling behind.’

I was, however, taught critical thinking and problem solving both of which are vital as an adult. How, exactly, do those get tested on a scantron?

So, dear proponent of these endless tests, my child won’t take them. She will be opted out of every single one you try to give her. If the school won’t sign off on the waiver our family vacations of staying at home and doing absolutely nothing will be meticulously planned around your meticulous planning.

Whoops.

Her love of learning will not be crushed by a dread of bubble sheets. She won’t have nightmares of failing.  She will never believe a test dictates that she let someone down. She will be what she is – a curious, critical thinker and not your cultural cyborg of approved facts.

She doesn’t need facts she needs information. Information can’t be adequately internalized over a week of stress- the process doesn’t flow in that direction.  Information is the culmination of the accumulation of raw data, gained through her experience and assessed by how effectively it fits within her world. Facts are monotonous proof of attendance.  Information is the powerfully explosive realization of objectivity.

I am the last generation of parents raised on cat’s cradle and snow shovels.  I am the last generation of a childhood that was non-Wii, ignorant of the X-box, and perplexed by the Playstation.  I am the last edge of humanity that remembers what the responsibility to entertain ourselves truly feels like.  With this legacy in my hands I will do what I have to in order to make sure my daughter has as much power as possible.  In short –

PBTHTHTHTHTTHTH.