Standardized Exams: What’s It All For?

by | Professionals

When I was in the third grade, I took my first standardized exam.

I sat in the classroom across the hall and was presented a large booklet with an accompanying answer sheet with tiny circles to fill in. It was my first time taking a multiple-choice test, and I was immediately panicked. I completely blanked out.⠀

When classmates flipped their papers over, I felt dread. Eventually, it was recess, and I remained alone in the classroom, in tears.⠀

The pressure was immense.

The exam came without warning. I sat in an unfamiliar classroom with a homeroom teacher who was not mine with classmates who mostly were not mine. I felt intimidated and embarrassed, and I wanted to disappear.⠀

When I finally sobbed uncontrollably, the teacher let me off the hook.⠀

By the time my son was school age, I knew I didn’t want to subject him to poking and prodding and testing and reporting ad nauseam. I knew from the experience of his first five years on the earth, immersed in medical testing, this was precisely what school would become for him: another dehumanizing establishment.⠀

It doesn’t matter how gentle a teacher can be, the assessment methods applied in schools are damaging to a human being.

If this weren’t true, years later, I wouldn’t still be able to feel the humiliation of that horrid day in the third grade.⠀

I can tell about how exams reduce a student’s worth to how well they perform in one particular moment in time. ⠀

I can talk about how they don’t reflect what a student can truly do. ⠀

I can rant about how they reflect nothing about a person’s character and certainly nothing about their knowledge. ⠀

I can share about how a person will accomplish great things in life without being tested nor possessing a degree.⠀

Instead, I ask: What is it all for? And, is it worth the distress?


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