The Game

6:57 AM

|| Tests, we complain ||

  1. You are too long.
  2. You don't make any sense.
  3. You test things we didn't study for.
  4. You always fall on the worst days of the week.
  5. You just aren't awesome, Tests.
Nobody likes tests. It isn't a private observation of mine: ask any school-aged child. Cheers do not erupt during finals week. No right-minded person rejoices that the module ended and now the science test looms. SAT testers don't go skipping into the test centers. (Even the test administrators seem to hate it -- though what could be depressing about sitting five hours listening to the occasional sigh and pencil scratch is beyond me.)

I wish I could say I am above complaining about tests, but I'm not. I sympathize with those who find that the one definition they forgot to memorize ended up on the test. I know the wonderful feeling of sweat running down one's temple as she cautiously cracks open the math book -- RED ALERT!

But since I haven't had too many tests recently in my senior year, my complaints have shifted. My biggest beef with tests is not that they are too hard or too long but that they are too easy and too irrelevant. In my twelve years of experience, the study guides and lessons themselves were always much harder than the test. I learned all this knowledge I never got tested on; I have much more to say and prove than the twenty-five questions on the test. And yet somehow, one test covering a cramped expanse of learning is supposed to prove that I am capable and ready to move on.

If my GPA was determined by my average math lesson grade, I would be sent to remedial school. (Slightly joking -- I am just that sick of private school textbooks not meant for independent learners. But that's another rant.) Fortunately for my pride and unfortunately for my education, I pass with flying colors because the tests are easier, simpler and more compact than the breadth of education I was supposed to absorb. Too, I can always guess -- especially on the all-important standardized tests. Along the way I learned how to manipulate the test to figure out the right answer without revealing I didn't know how to work the problem.

That bugs me. It isn't entirely fair or accurate. Yet it's also essential -- test taking is an art, the knowledge of how to beat school at its own game. Side-by-side with the Pythagorean theorem and past participles, we school kids learned test taking. We perfected it. We had to. Even for homeschoolers or schools who went with a less textbooky approach to education, we proved our smarts on the standardized test -- and it was the only way we could win, could earn the scholarships, could get into the best colleges.

The impetus for this post (though it's been boiling inside me ever since I sat almost six hours at an SAT testing center) was from an intelligent, successful gentleman who took a standardized test with pitiable results. It fascinated me -- and I entirely agreed. Nobody in their right mind would say that this man wasn't extremely smart and at the head of his game. Nobody except his test scores.

So what does that say about the potential and the smarts of the thousands of students bubbling in answers? What does that say about you?

To be entirely honest, the testing game has redefined education and has in some cases cheated students out of true recognition -- or granted it where it shouldn't have been granted. Every student at one time in his life has crammed for a test, memorizing huge chunks of stuff with the comfort that he can forget it after the last problem. (Oops.) I once knew how to determine the sex of a crayfish and how to diagram sentences. I don't anymore -- but my test scores deem me sufficient.

On the other hand, a student at our local high school wrote a brilliant essay complaining about the outdated test required in our state. It tested things nobody learned or cared about anymore, painting as inadequate the education of those who didn't study the minutia of last decade's current events. Even more frustrating, it tested at the beginning of the school year, before the summer amnesia has worn off.

What frustrates me the most, though, is how testing dictates our education. I read an article about a teacher who took his class on a field trip to Occupy L.A., interviewing protestors, comparing today's economy to the Great Depression and drawing conclusions about the economic problems. I'm not into the Occupy movement, but front row seats at something that's been plastered across the media for weeks? I'm in. All that to say, what a fantastic teaching idea. Yet the teacher hesitated -- he was placing his students and himself in the predicament of learning stuff that was not on the test. They would pay for it -- him with his job, them with their grades -- if they couldn't catch up with the rest of lock-step schooling.

Who made up these rules again?

Via Pinterest
To be honest, I think the best way to evaluate learning is to get rid of letter grades and rigid tests altogether. Obviously some things can be tested with reasonable accuracy -- you either recognize a misplaced modifier or you don't -- but drawing broad conclusions about a student's intelligence and education from such a stiff-collared method is unfair. Real-life application and relationships are the best evaluators -- putting the paper-and-pencil knowledge to work. I mean, test taking isn't an education and isn't a paid job.

Realistically I don't see this happening on a large scale. It would reveal the scandal of how many students are struggling, it would burden schools and colleges, and it would require us students to sit up straighter and pay attention.

But doesn't it give one a slightly grander purpose when complaining about tomorrow's math test?

p.s. For more profundity, visit my sister's blog, where we hash out some more hot topics via vlog. And leave her a comment while you're at it.

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7 impressions

  1. I agree entirely with you; test taking is not only boring and stiff, but a huge waste of time. Being in public school until 5th grade and taking TAKS test for 3 years, all I know is that the whole public school education is based solely around the TAKS test.

    I don't believe knowledge such as what that weird looking bone in a said-animal is, or the Latin term for a white tiger is things that are not necessary for our education...but that's the kind of things you have to cram into your memory and remember for tests.

    *end of rant*

    I loved this blog post. Bravo! Being shared on Facebook now. :)


    (P.S. - Do you have a Pinterest, Bailey? I notice you "via" them a lot. :0])

  2. I recognize this conversation. I think it made the dinner table talk.

    I couldn't agree more. I wish tests made you remember and think - but minus the stress. I look great on my science test scores, but my average knowledge (from what I remember) is a zero.

  3. Bethany -- I am very weirded out right now. Somehow your comment published without me publishing it.


    Alexxus -- I'm just a side admirer of the vast collection of odd and wonderful photos on Pinterest.

  4. Well, you should sign up, Bailey. :)

  5. Well, now that I've survived the pink alien abduction again, here I am to comment.

    Great post, Bailey! I couldn't agree more. This semester I was pleasantly surprised to learn that online college course instructer often allow for open-book exams. Quite wonderful. Just make sure the index isn't missing in your textbook and you're set =)


  6. lol:) I really, really, really, really-really-really like that sign. :D

    I agree that those tests are not a good measure of a person's's kinda fun to figure out how to "win" the testing session, though. :D (Hope you know what I mean.)

  7. I love that Albert Einstein quote. Did you know that Einstein himself didn't start talking until he was three?
    Everybody is good at something.


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