I’m bad at a lot of things: navigating (even with Google Maps, I sometimes kind of … forget which way is right and which way is left), singing, parallel parking, doing my own makeup (or anyone else’s).
I’m also good at a lot of things: baking, basic plumbing (thanks, Dad!), playing spades and hearts, and taking standardized tests.
And although the stakes are different between whipping up a batch of cookies or playing a friendly game of cards and taking the SATs, in many ways, I truly don’t think taking those kinds of tests is anything more than a skill.
I was a National Merit Finalist who went on to teach other future National Merit Finalists at a well-known test prep center – and I know that there are many, many people out there who are way smarter than any of us with way lower test scores.
In addition to being (in my opinion and that of many others) racist, classist, and sexist, standardized tests absolutely can be “gamed.” There are strategies to improve your scores dramatically without even learning anything new.
I also worry that the emphasis on testing stifles creativity for both students and teachers.
All of that said, even if I were the biggest supporter in the world of these kinds of tests, I’d still want to give our kids a break this year. We waived LEAP testing last year, which made sense given the whole pandemic thing, but students last year had had about 75 percent of their school year under normal circumstances before everything went upside-down. There are students this year who haven’t been back inside a school building since March 13, 2020, and who are now having to go back solely to take the LEAP after more than a year of distance learning.
My older daughter is, like everyone, good and bad at many things, as well. When it comes to standardized testing, I’d say she’s pretty solidly in the middle. She’s a good test-taker, but I personally think (and this may just be mom bias) she is smarter than her scores might suggest. However, the stress of the pandemic has brought on crippling test anxiety for her, and when I say “crippling,” I don’t mean she has butterflies in her stomach and doesn’t want to eat breakfast on test day; I mean she has been crying, having panic attacks, and losing sleep over LEAP testing since probably February. (Yes, we are pursuing therapy and medication, thanks.)
I hate watching what this is doing to her. In a normal year, she is nervous; this – do I even need to say it?! – is not a normal year. And I wish we could’ve just gotten one more year off from the high-stakes testing ordeal.
What do you think? Do we need the data more than ever so we can assess how much learning has been affected by the pandemic? Should we give already-stressed-to-the-max kids and teachers a break? Is the data even meaningful? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.