My response to the adult taking the standardized test…

December 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

The viral tweet of the day is “When an adult took standardized tests forced on kids” from The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post. I read the blog post this morning and my first thought was that the people retweeting it needed to do a little critical thinking.

I’m a fan of The Answer Sheet. I think Valerie puts up some great things about challenging the current state of education in our country, but I have some serious problems with the essay (which was guest authored by Marion Brady) that was put up today, and I think that any high school level English teacher would have the same problems I do. I would hope that any editor of a major newspaper would also have these issues had this been a new article and not on the op-ed page.

The lead paragraph sets up the story pretty well, but the second paragraph completely turned me off.

By any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. His now-grown kids are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. Paid-for condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer miles. Enough time of his own to give serious attention to his school board responsibilities. The margins of his electoral wins and his good relationships with administrators and teachers testify to his openness to dialogue and willingness to listen.

My first thought when I read that was, what does ANY of that have to do with this person’s knowledge base or their ability to answer questions correctly on a test. If you can’t see that, substitute “my friend” with “Charles Barkley,” or “Christina Aguilara.” Just because someone has a lot of money does not mean they are smart. I think that’s one of the biggest problems in this country at the moment. We equate wealth with intelligence. We equate popularity with intelligence. It’s part of the reason we’re in this mess in the first place…the politicians with the most money are the ones who get elected, even if they aren’t the smarted people around.

One of the arguments I hear quite often on Twitter is that the people with money are throwing around their influence to back charter schools, when it is clear that charter schools do not outperform public schools. Yet, because of the money and power behind them, they are getting the media attention. Money does not equal intelligence.

The second half of the post is written well, but the entire argument base for it hinges on this:

A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.

And yet, this is exactly the same problem that plagues politicians. They can’t possibly see the merit in anything other than what they decide. The author states that it could be argued that if he was in 10th grade before taking the test, he might have done better.

This is where I practically shouted “YES” at my monitor. I know from personal experience that if you don’t use it, you lose it. I was two years removed from taking math classes when I had to take a placement test for college math, and I didn’t do well. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to do that math, but I was rusty. I hadn’t used it. And if I could do poorly on a college placement test two years removed from high school, how bad would I be 20 years removed? 40?

But that isn’t the point.

The point is, we are trying to prepare high school students for college and careers beyond college. That career might be acting, programming, auto repair, or engineering, but if we don’t give students a solid basis in ALL disciplines before sending them off to college (or the real world), then we are severely limiting their options as far as future careers.

Just because you, in your career, don’t use the math you learned in high school doesn’t mean that nobody uses it, and it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be learned or tested.

Do I have issue with the amount of tests and the weight that they’re given in judging schools? You bet I do. But arguing against testing a subject just because “I don’t use it and I’m successful” isn’t any more of a reason to ditch the tests than “I’m in charge and I say so,” is a reason to give them.

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