March 23, 2012

GOOD had an article on opting out of standardized state testing. First, I had no idea this is an option nowadays. Second, I’m aware of the arguments that standardized testing is not necessarily an accurate way to judge how smart someone is. Third, standardized testing is so far from my mind – and I’m not even that old – that I’d be a pretty bad judge of how good/bad/hard/biased they are.

It’s funny. I can’t even remember what the SATs and ACTs (yes, I took both) were like. But I remember the Iowa Tests, every other year through elementary and middle school. I have clear memories of questions like if you fold up a piece of paper, hole punch it, then unfold it – what does it look like? I remember because we couldn’t have scrap paper during those sections of the test. Anyway, I have no recollection at all about what my scores looked like on those tests.

Even though I don’t really remember them, I understand how much is riding on these tests – for both students and schools. However, I am personally still partial to standardized tests. I’m a good test taker; I don’t get unreasonable anxious; these tests have never indicated I need remedial classes when I don’t. Adults may not do well on these tests, but there’s a whole game show based on whether adults are smarter than 5th graders (and I’m sure if it was that easy, it’s not much of a game). I may not know any geometry now, but if I’ve been studying it for a good chunk of the year – I better know something.

And kids’ self-esteem – don’t get me started. You cannot protect your kid from every failure and every dent to how awesome they think they are. In fact, I think it’d be better for kids to learn that you can fail a test and it doesn’t mean that you’re not smart. Or you can be placed in special programs or told that you’re not “performing up to the appropriate level” and realize that’s actually how the world works. If you get too nervous at a job interview and do badly, you might not get that job. Or you could totally ace the interview and still not get the job.

Standardized tests aren’t that much different from any other test you’re going to have in life. It’s a learning experience. Pulling your kid out of the test isn’t going to help them.

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