Monday, April 23, 2012

But pineapples don't have sleeves!

This started out as a comment on Ed Hughes' fabulous school board blog.  (And if you live in Madison, you absolutely need to be reading that blog - He does a wonderful job of keeping the rest of us up to date on local education issues.)

Disclaimer:  my children do very well on standardized tests.  They come by this honestly.  My entire family does very well on standardized tests.  We have never met a scan-tron sheet that we didn't love at first sight.

But guess what?  It doesn't really matter!  If standardized tests were an accurate prediction of life success, my sister and I would currently be President (her) and Vice President (me)....her tests were always a percentile higher than mine, you see.  Or we would have invented Google or Facebook or a cure for cancer or something.

But we're not.  She's living in Alaska, saving the environment.  And I'm living in Madison, working, raising kids and going to too many school board meetings.  We both have very average lives. Lovely lives, for sure.  (But truly not 99th percentile lives, if one is measuring value by career or economic success.)

I very much want to defend standardized tests.  Left to my own world experiences, I would argue passionately that standardized tests were quite obviously the one and only measurement of pure intelligence.

But.  It isn't true.  The more I experience life outside of my own sheltered view, the more I am quite sure that isn't the case.

I've been following the story of the sleeveless pineapple all week and it just gets better and better. 

I've come to the conclusion that most of these tests don't really measure anything beyond how one manages to manipulate the test.

The one area in which I have been most disappointed in Obama has been education and his insistence that more testing is the answer to all our ills.  (Looks like I'm not alone - Matt Damon seems to agree.)

Why the emphasis and focus on standardized testing? Seriously. We already grade our children.  Why can't the grades speak for themselves?  Do we have such little trust in our teachers that we need some testing company to swoop in and charge us a ton of money and tell us our kids are super smart?  (or super dumb, as the case may be?)

In the past, I've defended standardized testing.  Now, I'm not so sure.

And finding out the story was really about an eggplant?!  Now, that was the last straw.


Bridgett said...

I loved Damon's defense of teachers last year in a video I saw online somewhere. He has a quick mouth.

Standardized tests. Don't get me started. We're at a grass-roots charter school making huge strides and really creating a home for children in the city (entirely by lottery)--but our ship sails or sinks by the high stakes Missouri test. It's high on the list of reasons I'm hoping to teach at a small independent school nearby next year--no standardized test prep. Just education.

Rachel Donegan said...

While I totally share your love of standardized tests -- a form! circles to fill in! multiple choice! -- and I also always did well on them, I also know the best education I got was at a school with no standardized testing and no (traditional) grades. I learned how to THINK, think critically and problem solve. Two skills which I think most public schools regularly fail at teaching their students.