Say, What? Standardized Testing

They say you learn something new each day. And that’s true. Especially today, since I learned two new things – well, relearned one and learned something else new entirely. The first thing has nothing to do with the rest of the post, but it’s “Save! And save often.” Microsoft Word on a four year old Lenovo can be a cruel, cruel mistress (or whatever the male equivalent is, if we want to play that game). Let’s just say that I’m rewriting this post entirely from memory. But I’m not bitter at all – I just get to relive the joy of composing a post again. Yayy. Now let’s get to it *ahem*

Have you ever heard the saying, you learn something new each day? Of course you have! It’s in the last paragraph. Well, I learned something fantastic and magical today. It knocked my socks off. And my thinking cap. My number two pencil too. Even my scantron.

Apparently, public school students have the freedom to refuse to take a standardized test (without penalty).

You only have to print off a form, have a parent sign it, and return it to school like (A witty simile was here – I promise).

It came as a complete surprise to me. As a product of No Child Left Behind, I was always under the impression that we didn’t have a choice when it came to the big tests. Drill and kill, or be killed – was more of how it seemed to go.

If I casually reflect on my experiences with testing, my thoughts are honestly tame. I was never really in danger of failing any of the state assessments, so my thoughts are relatively care-free. But if I think back to my first state test, when I was in second grade (geez, that’s actually my first memory of a test – ever), some complicated feelings arise.

I’m not sure if you, dear reader, ever had to take these kinds of tests, but as a student, you know that they’re important. There’s this sort of pressure that you have to do well. At least that’s how it was for me. I was a paranoid-ish/neurotic kid anyway – I always thought people were watching me, sizing me up, waiting to see if I was smart or dumb. And I remember that test in second grade being the ultimate indicator of my worth. It scared the heck out of me. Yeah, I took it. And I did fine. But I remember looking over at one of my best friends in the middle of the test – the other ‘smart kid’ of the class – and thinking, if I fail this and they think I’m stupid, will we still be friends? I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of pressure for second grade, self-inflicted or not!

Well, something interesting happened in seventh grade. I think they’ve since gotten rid of them, but it was a writing test. I won’t go into details about it, but I failed. Bad. It was really embarrassing, especially when English/Language Arts had always been my best subject. I mean, it was the end of the year test. If it said I was bad, then I must’ve be bad, right? Well, my eighth grade LA teacher, the amazing lady that she was, assured me that the test was just wrong/stupid and I was a fantastic writer. Regardless of whether or not that is still true, she nurtured my confidence in an area where it had been stifled. It was the first time that I saw that a test wasn’t the end-all-be-all of capturing student growth and potential.

In a testing culture like this, if someone doesn’t tell you it, you start to let the test determine your worth as a learner. I was lucky enough that I almost always ended up on the positive side of things. For a student who really struggled to make that 3 or to hit proficiency though, the story may be different and a bit dark.

So let’s say that I could go back in time and give my younger self the heads up that I could opt out of tests with a magic form. The sad thing is, even if I had the power to go back in time and inform myself of my rights, it wouldn’t have mattered. My mother never would’ve signed that form. I feel as though the opt-out movement is specific to a very certain kind of family from a particular background that possess more sought-after resources. I can’t speak for everyone, but I come from a group where it is assumed that educators, schools, and policy-makers know best. They’re rarely questioned or challenged. We don’t cause a fuss if we don’t have to.

I’m not criticizing the movement, but I’m just not sure what it means (or will ever mean) for all families and students. Only time will tell, I suppose.


[Casper Rhay]



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One Response to Say, What? Standardized Testing

  1. jhelms94 says:

    I never knew it was possible for parents to opt their kids out of standardized tests either! I think it’s kind of crazy that it’s an option that no one really knows about. We grew up in school thinking about the end of year tests on the very first day. Each day all we did was prepare for the final test. So how is it that students can just not take the tests we spend all the time preparing for? I guess it’s awesome for those that have parents that would opt out but in my case, as in yours, mine would never do such a thing. Although, similar to you, I never really struggled with the tests tremendously, I never really enjoyed them and would’ve been thrilled to be able to opt out. I guess we will see if this starts to take place more often in schools…


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