Standardized testing

A few weeks ago, Tween Girl Princess’ school hosted a pep rally. Unlike the usual hootin’ and hollerin’ over a new athletic season, this student-wide assembly was different: they were hyping the kids up for another round of standardized testing.

Teachers, principals, administrators, everybody took a turn jumping through a hoop and trying to get the kids all riled up to number 2 pencil the heck outta them little tiny dots. Woo hoo.

I thought this when I was back in grade school and now that I’m a parent, the same thought still holds true: standardized testing is the biggest academic farce ever. And I hate how they primp and groom the kids before they take them — and afterwards, too, if they do good. It's like the equivalent of turning young scholars into little circus poodles to show the state and the rest of whoever wants to read the scores that they're either excellent or suck-ish.

In the whole scope of the academic learning process, what do they even friggin' mean?

First of all, they’re a drain on precious classroom time that should be spent doing something more effective than — let’s be honest — making zippy patterns from the strategic placement of the a, b, c, or d dots. True, there are some students who genuinely sit and pour over the questions and accumulate a mounting pile of scrap paper, trying to match their work to the impossible multiple choice options on the page.

But when time or morale gets low, no one’s getting a good reading on the aptitude of those students. They’re not working to their full potential. They’re just trying to get done.

Remember how your answer used to always be off by like less than a tenth of any number that even closely resembled what you came up with? And you would rumple up your paper and try again, just to come up with a figure that was completely different from the first go-round but still not anything listed among the possible answers in the test booklet?

Time would be up and you’d have to play that very same ‘b-a-d-c-a-d’ game just to avoid leaving half a page of empty dots because you invested too much time trying to make a math miracle on one or two questions.

OK, maybe that was just me. A numbers whiz I have never, ever been. Man, those used to be stressful days. But that goes to show that there are folks who just aren’t good test takers. The pressure is overwhelming.

The rabble rouser in me wants to say no more and keep The Girl home next time they launch into a hoo-rah pre-test taking campaign. If I do, I got it fairly. I distinctly remember my mom writing a note to the school in the fourth grade refusing to allow me to participate in yet another round of exams after we had taken like two sets of acronymed tests already in the year. That was fine with me. I had my Judy Blume book to keep me occupied while everyone else was hunched over a sea of dotted sheets, so I was a-OK.

I suppose these test series are designed to prepare students for the SAT, the big daddy of all standardized examinations. That thing comes with instructional books, prep courses, and specialized tutors. You know it’s serious when you have coaches for a sit-down test. Then of course there’s the GRE, which I’ve taken twice and refuse to sit through ever again, the LSAT, the GMAT, and a dismal lot of others required by some colleges to prove that you are in fact bright enough to be enrolled. As if your grades themselves aren’t enough.

That’s what’s so irksome. So many students who are obviously smart with proven track records of achievement in their classwork and in-class tests and quizzes fall way, way short when it comes to penciling in those silly little dots. So what’s the point?

Do you think standardized testing is a waste of students’ time? Do you find the results to be a real reflection of your child’s (or your) ability?

Image via orangeacid/Flickr