I have a friend with two boys who just at the mere mention of standardized testing goes into mama bear mode. There’s no question she is passionate.
Mess with her kids, and I think she might actually maul someone.
The thing about standardized testing that fires her up is the pressure put on the kids, and the teachers, as they prepare for the tests. Apparently there is a big emphasis on kids doing well. Actually, doing extremely well.
No wonder everyone is feeling the pressure.
With all this tension, I shouldn’t be surprised by the amount of Facebook posts from parents asking for advice on how to help their kids relax before going into these tests. There’s a fear of failure that resonates in the parents’ desires to help their kids take tests. I don’t remember that going on when I was a kid.
I also don’t remember worrying much as a kid.
Teachers are making videos to take the edge off, including one of a flash mob by teachers at Goshen Middle School in Indiana posted this week. I will give those teachers some credit. Dancing hip-hop style in front of a bunch of middle schoolers takes guts. I applaud their efforts of creativity and ability to really put themselves out there. By out there, I mean the Internet.
And on every kids’ cellphone in the hall that day.
From what I remember, dancing in a middle school is a spectacle in itself. Especially the incredibly embarrassing slow-dancing tradition with arms extended straight, on the shoulders and right above the hips. Never below, of course.
Do kids even slow dance like that anymore?
In many schools, standardized tests put the pressure on kids to move on to the next grade or to increase a school’s ranking. Like any required course of action, there are pros and cons. My fired-up friend feels that the tests force educators to teach to them. She feels as if that can limit the scope of education her boys receive. She also knows that not all kids test well. I might be an example.
Not that I want to admit it.
Honestly, I don’t test well. But I’ve heard people say that’s because I don’t know how to prepare. Not true, of course. Sure I can study. I have studied. I spent 16 years of elementary, middle and high school and college studying. I don’t really enjoy studying.
That’s evident from my LSAT score.
For those who have no interest in memorizing acronyms, the LSAT stands for the Law School Admissions Test. I took it. I bombed the analytical section. Killed it on the comprehension and essay sections. That basically means as a lawyer, I could learn, memorize, comprehend and communicate all those legal cases in history. I just wouldn’t know how to apply them to a current legal case.
Or something like that.
I did take the SAT so I could go to college. I did well enough to get into college, but I have never spouted out the three-digit number I scored on that test. And yes, it was three digits. I remember being nervous about taking it. I remember wondering how detrimental that morning I took the SAT would be on the rest of my life.
I often wonder where I would be with a four-digit score.
The thing about tests is we all have them in life, whether they are in written form or they are experienced. In my life, I have aced many and failed others. I do know I’ve learned the most when my boundaries are pushed and I feel the most passionate about a subject. Art, literature and English were always my favorites.
We won’t go into math.
I hope the kids of the next generation are taught to have confidence in their abilities, and not be discouraged by test scores. That’s how I remember being a kid. I recently read a CNN article about a school with Genius Hour, where classrooms have 80 minutes out of the week to work on projects the students hand pick. According to the story by Emanuella Grinberg, they can pursue everything from studying healthy eating habits to making T-shirts. Google’s 20-percent time initiative, where employees spend that time working on what they’re passionate about, is behind this student-driven learning. This method of learning helps teach kids about more than what they might see on a test and more about what they can expect in life. I think that is fantastic.
I know one mama bear who would unequivocally approve.
— April E. Clark just spent her Genius Hour writing jokes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.