It makes sense that the person with the test-prep business would want your kids to take more tests (embrace them, actually). Her actual points as to why they should take them make less sense.
- Your child needs to learn how to take a standardized test. It doesn’t take a decade of high-stakes testing to learn how to take an SAT or ACT – tests which are completely optional and increasingly obsolete. Colleges are recognizing that a good SAT score does not necessarily connote academic ability any more than a poor score suggests catatonia. To suggest that we must embrace the common core because if we don’t start taking tests in 3rd grade then we won’t have good test taking skills is the height of silliness. “Reading the passage carefully” and “looking for the answer” doesn’t take a decade of careful coaching. Methinks the emperor needs to get her clothes back on. Are “compulsory” high-stakes tests the only way a student can prepare for tests (tests they merely may want to take)? If not, then what are the better ways at learning test-prep skills? Maybe I’m wrong…maybe forcing students into hours of high-stakes testing starting at age 7 or 8 and ending around 18 is the best use of time. Or maybe “test-prep” isn’t that complicated, difficult, scary thing that requires a decade of state intrusion to master.
- You will learn important things about your child. That depends on what you consider important. The things you actually “learn” about your child also requires considerable faith that the arbitrary questions asked in the context of coercion and meant to isolate and quantify knowledge within a narrow subject are valid predictors of future success. In reality, these tests are more like autopsies of what learning could be, and they best assess compliance. Are compulsory standardized tests the only way to learn something important about your child? Are they the best way?
- Your child will feel good about herself. When you work hard and succeed at something then you feel good about yourself. Fair enough. But what if the child worked hard and didn’t succeed (because, as the saying goes, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, then it’ll always be a failure). What if your right-brained fourth grade child fails to meet some other persons’ idea of ideal? If in NYC they use those scores to determine what school your child will attend, then that’s a big deal, is it not? What if your child doesn’t work hard and is successful at these tests, which is also possible? What does that teach? Are these tests the only way to teach determination, self-reliance, and personal efficacy? Is coloring in bubbles on a scantron the best way to access feelings of accomplishment?
- There’s value in preparing for this test. There is nothing inherently wrong in a test. It’s just a piece of paper, and paper is amoral. You can learn things from studying, we can all agree on that. The three painfully obvious objections are that these particular tests are compulsory (kind of), narrow in the scope of what they assess (as Sir Ken Robinson puts it, “the neck up, and slightly to one side”), and, as the author of the original post pointed out just 83 words earlier, the results of the tests have major consequences, such as which school an elementary student will attend. So you have to take the tests, regardless of your interests, passions, goals, family, culture, etc., they only test a sliver of the infinite number of things that are worthy to learn, and the results determine the quality of your next 4-10 years. But sure, I agree, there is value in studying – I think that was the original point.
- What message do you want to send? This is something I think about a lot. What message do I want to send to my own two boys? What kind of men do I want them to become? It’s easier to sit, roll over, and play dead on command. It’s easier to do exactly what you’re told, especially when the person who is doing the telling is a school authority, or the state itself. It is much easier to not have to explain anything to your district, family, neighbors, or eight year old kid. I don’t want to send the message that it is better to just dumbly do the easy thing, to not think for yourself, and to just go along to get along. Remember – schools exist for our convenience, not the other way around. They don’t make demands of us. We tell them to behave, or we put them in timeout. My message to my kids is that they control their own destiny by making their own decisions, not taking someone else’s test on demand.