What if?

what if

Recently I had a crazy thought? I actually have them quite often. I just don’t always put them down in writing. But this time I just had to.

Many schools across the country are administering some form or another of standardized testing. We are currently in the midst of our second round of PARCC testing. And while schedules have been rearranged and instructional time has been lost, it hasn’t been horrible.

Here is where my crazy thought comes in.

What if every child received a perfect score?

I know this thought doesn’t even make sense. So for those of you that always defer to logic you can stop reading now. But for the rest of you whose brain sometimes has irrational thoughts like mine I invite you to join me.

Just imagine it. The test scores come back. And something amazing has happened. Every child received a perfect score! Impossible you say! I agree. There is just no way. Okay, I get it.

But here comes the next question that has me stumped.

If every child received a perfect score would we change the test?

Unfortunately I believe that we would change the test. I think we would want to make it more difficult. So that fewer children would receive perfect scores. I think that in our minds we would convince ourselves that children would have to reach higher and learn more to meet the standards that we set for them.

I worry that since we give every child

in every grade

the same test

at the same time

we will end up with

much of the same.

Is that what we want?

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Albert Einstein

In my fifteen plus years I have worn various hats when it has come to standardized testing. I have prepared students for them. Probably too earnestly at times. I have helped teachers prepare their classes for them. Certainly with too much emphasis on raising scores. And now, at this point in my career I am a site test coordinator.

It is only now that I feel like I am able to take a step back and see with a little more clarity and with a little less bias. And I think I have come to the conclusion that no student feels better about themselves after taking a standardized test. Many in fact feel worse. And that is difficult to watch. On the other hand, students I know that are going to excel on standardized tests do not leave the testing environment with a stride in their step or a smile on their face. They just walk out. That’s it.

Are these standardized tests giving us what we need? I certainly hope so. Because they are definitely not giving our children what they need. And that is a shame because that is who we are serving. Or have we forgotten?

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs

I’d like to think that our goal is to help prepare kids to change the world. I just don’t think we are going about it the right way. Not by preparing them all to take the same exact test.

I don’t know. Maybe these are probably just one man’s crazy thoughts on a lazy spring night.

For now let’s just hope that at least everyone doesn’t receive a perfect score. Because if they do we are going to have to make some difficult decisions. And I don’t know if we are ready? Or are we?

1 Comment »

  1. Great post. More critical discussions about the absurdity of our testing obsession need to be brought to the forefront and taken to the next levels.

    I do believe that if every student got a perfect score, they would change the test. I love the quotes you included as they sum up the situation perfectly.

    I don’t know who I feel worse for during testing:

    – The students who try hard and do poorly, then have to feel bad about it because we are obsessed with raking, comparing, and analyzing them.


    -The students who do really well and have the illusion that this means they are “LIFE READY” because they scored high. They believe in the system and do not doubt that these are good indicators of success, because all of the adults are administering them. The saddest thing, is that it really only tells them that they are good at “standardized testing” which exists nowhere else, except for the imaginary world of college.

    I would like to take STANDARDIZED TESTS to court and charge them with:
    – Stressing out many students beyond belief
    – Causing high anxiety and depression in kids
    – Increased suicide rates
    – High dropout rates in high school and college
    – PERJURY for lying to students by telling them it matters when it doesn’t
    – 1st degree murder of creativity, hope, and passion for learning
    – False imprisonment for causing many students to feel their future is limited

    Google has finally decided that GPA’s & Test Scores do not predict future success. My guess is that Europe will adopt that philosophy in about 5 years, Australia in about 10 years, and the United States in about 250 years.

    The biggest bullies in every school are the standardized tests.

    Why is this madness still happening? It seems so obvious that it is wrong. My only explanation is the quote:

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
    -Upton Sinclair

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