Standardized tests like beautifully written resumes don’t always predict the best learners or employees. Does it show what students can really do? Today, it’s normal for learning to be put on hold for more than a few weeks out of the school year. Furthermore, an anxious teach-to-the-test culture change can go well beyond that—to filter into almost every day a student spends at school. We’re not talking just about the testing that happens during the so-called appropriate testing years, but we’re talking large-scale practice testing in off years, and daily classroom practice testing during lessons as part of the curriculum, too.
Great practice at taking tests doesn’t equate to great student learning, or great teaching. It really amounts to creating a one-dimensional student rather than a well-rounded one, and teachers frustrated for lack of time to teach subject lessons. I’m certain that some of the worst test takers can be some of the best thinkers. Many times, it’s not a case of who has the higher IQ, or smarter, it’s a case of what can a student do with what he/she has. Can a student solve a real problem, think outside the box, come up with 15 new ideas—and then figure out how to do them—take thought and translate that to action? That, should be what we read in the news, and those are the employees companies are should be seeking.
Recent test cheating scandals, where teachers have changed student answers, and where students were paid to take SATs for others—to gain college acceptance—based on those test scores—just solidifies more, for me, that the competitive-testing process, which now makes school personnel and students nervous wrecks, has gone well beyond the legitimate assessment and education decision-making it should be.
Thinking further, it seems to me, that most employees are hired from resumes they haven’t written. They’re really squeaky-clean documents created by someone other than the person seeking the position. Who is really getting hired—the person or the document preparer/copy editor? If you’re an HR person, looking at a one-page outline—shorter the better—and written by a resume writing professional isn’t looking at what the individual can do for the best interest of a company.
I recently had a personal experience that stopped me in my tracks. A young HR person asked me, “What I could do?” Well, I’m sort of a wise guy, so I said, “I can do everything.” I expected a laugh, but didn’t get one. The HR person then said, “Well, you can’t say that. We only hire people, who do one thing. I know you’re smart, but what one thing can you do?” Right then, I knew that I was up against a brick wall, and realized that this company had a problem, which was obvious to me, but so invisible to them. It’s the 60s song Little Boxes Made Out of Ticky-Tacky, where all the boxes looked all the same. I closed the conversation by telling the HR person, “I get it.” That seemed to be one-dimensionally satisfactory enough to be understood, but in my mind the ‘I get it’ had a different meaning.
I’m certain there are some adults and students, who love taking tests in any form, and really look forward to practicing and taking standardized tests, but this can’t be the thing schools are know for, or teachers train for, or districts are proud of. Students who take part in their own learning, teachers who guide them, and administrators that help make all that happen should be what we read daily in the newspapers, hear at dinner table conversations, or waiting for the train, and even riding the elevator to the work cubicle. Rethink the crazy standardized testing culture, and let’s get back to a learning and academic one. Who knows, we might even have time for recess again!