standardized test

instead of being In class the last two days, I’ve been administering standardized testing for my school. The standard image of this activity is of course the ones that the testing companies want us to see: rows and columns of desks with students in each desk, busily filling out bubble sheets and obeying the directions of the test monitors.

The expectation is that everyone works for the whole period allotted for the test. The expectation is that everyone knows to double-check their answers before the test ends.

The reality is quite different. Bear in mind that I teach at a private school, with a lot of kids that suffer from learning disabilities both diagnosed and unrecognized. But I bet this is true in many schools.

In today’s test, and yesterday’s, I had forty-eight students. Knowing that I was going to be writing this entry, and remembering last year’s idleness, I decided to keep tack of some stats today. Of forty-eight ninth graders, eleven (11) finished today’s math section with more than 20 minutes to spare. Another ten finished with more than 10 minutes to spare. Here is what they did with the extra time:

• read: the dictionary, chicken soup for the soul, JRR Tolkein’s lesser works.
• draw: naval architecture, landscape, portrait, abstract, cartoon, manga
• write: journal, poetry, Calligraphic Shakespeare (a present for a loved English teacher)
• gaming: tic-tac-toe, chess (in the hall outside),
• graphic design: logo for after school baseball team, logo for summer business
• 3-D design: origami, kirigami
• sleeping (3)
• “meditation” (2)

Astute readers will notice that this is more than 21; sone of the sleepers became gamers, one of the poets switched to origami, and so on.

The point is that virtually nothing on this list is tested on a standardized test. At all. We don’t ask them to draw or write at any length, certainly not for pleasure. We don’t teach them emotional regulation through meditation. We don’t teach calligraphy or how to fall in love with the lesser works of authors or how to browse a dictionary for fun.

And at the end of the test, my fellow monitors and I rounded up all the sheets of paper — the drawings and the poetry, the logos and the folded paper swans, the plans for a new fishing boat and the cartoon for the newspaper.

We rounded them up. We counted all the sheets of paper. And we put them in the “scratch paper” folder. And I delivered them to the office.

And there they will be shredded. Because that’s what the test requires.

America, your children are marvelously talented and creative. They may not do well in traditional school subjects — and these kids may not do well on tests, especially. But your willingness to give in to politicians and testing companies is making a mockery of your children’s real abilities.


  1. I can only hope that parents wake up to what is happening to our children when all we do is test, test prep and test some more. I don’t think it can come from teachers. Politicians don’t want to hear what we have to say. Apparently, it just sounds like we are complaining about our job.

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