The Important Stuff Isn’t on the Test

Students of my generation, that is, the generation who grew up as participants in No child Left Behind, the height of the standardized testing boom, are sick and tired of it. Ever since I was in 2nd Grade, I had to take a test for about 6 hours per day for a week; I had to take a Writing Assessment in 4th, 7th, and 10th Grades; I had 3 AP exams, in addition to the SATs and ACTs (twice), I even took a driving examination (again, twice, because, as I learned that day, it IS important to come to a complete stop at a STOP sign). I got into college as an undergrad, and had some reprieve…until I applied to graduate school and had to take the GRE. I’m just about done with tests, with people constantly feeling as though I have to measure up to a pre-conceived standard, that, as a result I am pitted in competition with all of my peers to see where we each measure up.

Sometimes we are so focused on the test, the final product, that we forget to learn anything. Teachers, whether due to incentives, regulations, or poor instruction, are sometimes stuck teaching linearly, sort of one-way teaching (teacher to student). Sometimes they open it up and it becomes two-way teaching (teacher to student and back–discussion). Why can’t we find more ways to teach that are harnessing more than memorization and study skills, such as what Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon talk about in their text Imagination First, going so far as to say that imagination “is…what makes education relevant–to everyone.” Allowing students the freedom to explore as well as the discipline to work toward a goal is an effective means of learning.

Here are some things I learned outside of the tradition classroom and standardized testing:

How to hold a baby.
How to tie a necktie (bowties still elude me)
How to read and write (technically this is cheating because I would have been taught in school, but already knew how when school started).
How to change the oil in my car.
How to change a tire on my car.
How to tell a joke.
How to throw a fastball.
How to bake cookies.
How to kiss.
How to talk to girls. (Not necessarily in this order…)

Most of these things are skills that I will use at various times in my life, and I would argue that they are just as important as what we learn in class. The difference is that I learned them by doing, by putting myself out there, into the world and experiencing them not only with my mind, but with my hands and my heart. We learn and use what we learn in a variety of ways; why shouldn’t we be assessed in a variety of ways as well? Perhaps, instead of asking “Will this be on the test?” we should be asking “What’s the best way to learn this?”

One thought on “The Important Stuff Isn’t on the Test”

  1. Thank you for this post!
    I had the same problem in my country. All my life was a bunch of tests from my first day in school to my pre-masters study. When I came to the US, things were different. Instead of having tests, I now have assignments 🙂
    But to me, assignments is much better than tests and may be less stressful.

Leave a Reply