NYS standardized testing starts on Tuesday for grades 3-8 or so I have heard. My Facebook newsfeed has been inundated with parents or with friends who are now teachers supporting a movement to opt out of the testing. Progress is important. I believe that “we’ve always done it this way” is a dangerous sentence. I also have confidence that my generation has no tolerance for the “it’s always been done this way” argument.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
I am not an education professional so I can’t tell you the advantages/ disadvantages of student testing. I don’t know what the long-term effects are (are there long-term effects?) I don’t know what they use the test scores for (teacher evaluation, I’m assuming). I can tell you my reaction to the movement to opt out of the tests and why, because of my reaction, I see how change is so difficult.
I have to brag for a second. I’m good at test taking. I don’t know why I am this way. I don’t know if it was learned or if I was born with it but, for the most part, I am prone to doing well on exams. Even when I have no idea what the exam is about, I usually get a score that indicates my comprehension of the information is higher than it actually is. I know this because I’ve studied with people who had a much better grasp of the material and then I beat them on the exam. Possibly it’s because I never think about the questions being asked. I think about what the person who wrote the exam wants me to prove that I know.
When I first heard about a large amount of parents moving to opt their kids out of testing, I first thought “good for them! I’m glad people take an interest in improving education”. After further consideration, I realized a harsher truth.
I am glad this movement came after I finished getting my elementary education in New York. Why? Because I nailed those exams every year. I was great at them. I was always in the top 10% of students scoring.
In the 10th grade I had a terrible math teacher. I learned nothing from her. Unfortunately, she went to our church and knew my parents and even had my sister for math as well. Since I knew that I had little to no comprehension of the information from the whole year, I was scared about the standardized test. So, I studied by myself and got a 93%. My teacher must have been proud of herself. I remember being mad at myself for doing so well when she came to my family in happy tears because I got a 93% after having been one of the worst students in the class. It was clear she thought she’d finally gotten through to me. But she didn’t. In fact, one of my parents had scared the crap out of me about what would happen if I failed. My success was really no indication of her teaching ability.
That story clearly shows that the standardized testing system is flawed but I’m glad they were doing it when I was there. In grade school whenever they returned the score results, my parents were always proud of me and my teachers always congratulated me. It felt great! But that is why change is so hard. When a system benefits one group unfairly, that group supports the system. It takes a lot of strength to say “this system was awesome for me but we should do away with it because it’s not the most fair solution we have”. We are selfish by nature.
The thing is, if you don’t believe in God and the Bible, then what is the motivation to be selfless? You might as well follow your selfish nature. After all, if I selfishly supported these tests and they don’t do away with them, my kids (who may inherit my knack for test taking) might get to take them and benefit from them too! We need Gods strength to resist the urge to act in our own self interest.