I received my first set of standardized school test scores back
from my two older sons. One would think that my children would be
master test takers by now. After all, they have participated in
years' worth of these kinds of exams. As I picked up the first set
of results, I couldn't help but wonder which versions of my
children showed up that day - Bobby Fischer or Forrest Gump? Ludwig
van Beethoven or The Waterboy?
Just as I suspected, my boys' rather inconsistent history of
test taking continues uninterrupted. Despite the nifty bar graphs,
percentages, and growth projection goals, I know the truth:
These tests don't mean squat.
Now don't get me wrong. I understand there are lots of things
that hinge on a school's overall test scores: federal and local
funding, whether schools are allowed to remain open, teacher
evaluations, etc. Yet I fear putting so much importance on a
second-grader's ability to not accidentally skip a problem while
having to pee like a racehorse is a little ridiculous.
And for the record, I theoretically have one Bobby Fischer this
year and one Forrest Gump. The roles are reversed from last spring
(which were also opposite of those before that).
There is a raw desperation that emits from CPS during testing
season. Countless notices arrive home, links to preparation sites
are provided, and dietary suggestions are outlined. For the public
well-being, I've pretty much condensed the various directives into
a single list:
The madness is so different from my own experience with
standardized tests. I vaguely remember arriving at school, being
handed a chewed-up No. 2 pencil (no eraser), and being told that
whoever finished their tests first could go play in the gym. I
think I filled in the same letter for all 100 questions. How could
I possibly focus when there was dodgeball to be played?
No, I do not believe a child's intelligence or educational
progress can be measured by a multiple choice exam. Some of the
smartest folks I know (those who are capable of leading people
through disaster, fixing complicated machinery, and doing long
division in their head) have all fessed up to being horrible test
takers. Many "good" test takers are just as likely to admit that
they have no skills in practical application whatsoever.
I would humbly suggest that it is time to embrace other
assessments of learning and progress. Building a model, outlining a
story, and providing chain of reasoning reflect far more about a
student than knowing whether "dog is to cat" is the same as "up is
So can you guess whether or not I reviewed my kids' test scores
with them as directed?
There was dodgeball to be played.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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