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Testing, testing everywhere. Testing here, testing there. Testing this, testing that. Ok, I’ll stop with the Dr. Seuss already. At school it seems everywhere we turn these days, we are conducting some sort of test.
It all started for me with the introduction to the ITBS when I was in 5th grade back at Shedeck Elementary. Way back in the days we filled in the bubbles on the dreaded Iowa Tests. I still don’t know why we had to take a test named after an obscure farming state somewhere in the upper Midwest. I know they grow corn there and I know that “if you build it, they will come”.
Were the kids in Iowa smarter than we were? After the ITBS (The Iowa Test of Basic Skills) I next experienced the ACT so that someone somewhere could determine how I was going to do in college. It still bothers me because the smartest guy I’ve ever known made nice little patterns on his answer sheet and scored better than I did. I really tried my “dead level best” on the darn thing. He had taken it the year before and scored high enough to get into the United States Naval Academy but his parents wanted him to take it one more time in hopes that he might be admitted to Stanford or Harvard on scholarship. He retired the other day by the way.
They called him Admiral on his retirement day and he really was a rocket scientist. I also would like to know why they call it a college entrance exam when I still haven’t met anyone who has been denied entry to college based on how they did on a test taken one Saturday morning for about 4 hours. I have been generally critical of all testing that wasn’t designed by an individual to test student comprehension on what exactly was being taught.
I have known students who worked their hind parts off studying and did great in class but scored poorly on standardized tests. They call a couple of them Dr. and a couple of them Your Honor. It is hard to convince me that a student should be measured on something that is designed by someone other than that student’s instructor.
However I have recently been scolded by a former student who reminded me that most of the professions and most technical careers demand students pass some sort of high stakes exam in order to be licensed or certified. She told me that she never felt like she was prepared for the pressure that came with taking a test; a test that determines if all of your hard work in school will pay off in life.
Doctors, nurses, lawyers, paralegals, plumbers, electricians, realtors, pool service technicians, food handlers, cosmetologists, soldiers, policemen, firemen, teachers, principals and yes, even superintendents, are required to take and pass high stakes exams in order to do whatever it is that we do. So, while I still lament the fact that our kids are required to take more and more exams and teachers are continuing to be stripped of their academic freedom, I will continue to try to be as proactive and visionary as possible.
It is so easy to be critical of the system and blame it on the right wing fanatics or the flaming liberals but really, in the end, maybe all students should be required to prove is they are ready for what is coming next. Because truly, I don’t want to be prescribed medication for what ails me by someone who barely squeaked by his or her medical boards and I really wouldn’t want that prescription to be filled by someone who gained passage of their pharmacy exam with a low “D”.