The Reign of the Standardized Test

By Cindy Koch

Maybe you were lucky enough to be sick on that great, terrible day. I was never that fortunate. Even if I didn’t make it into that strangely reverent gymnasium on the appointed day and time, I knew they would find me eventually. Relentlessly, they accounted for every young soul on their closely monitored educational path. Young or old, smart or dumb— all must stand before the Almighty Standardized Test.

Every teacher shows their most solemn face. The administrative procession stands at attention in anticipation for the hour to come. Days of preparation have gone into planning: placing the student desks, sharpening the blessed pencils, and reciting the holy law of the proctor. A heavy cloud of serious business presses on all who walk through the halls.

Students are told that this day is approaching. Months ago, our happy, beloved Mrs. Green smiled when she talked about the tests to come. As the Week of the Standards grew closer, her face twisted into a gentle panic when the conversation arose. Suddenly, we realized the Test held more power than she first let on. On this day of the wrath of the Test, Mrs. Green is torn from our childhood embrace to be melted into the sea of detached administrative staff.

What a simply terrifying day. Everything I knew about math before lunch and basketball in the gym was flipped on its head. My parents busily fed us a “healthy breakfast” to provide sustenance for the lonely road ahead. Checklists, sign-in sheets, and stern reminders now possess the face of my teachers. We are herded into silent lines filtered through the music room. Small children with wide, teary eyes are frantically trying to make sense of the chaos in the name of the Test.

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And behold, there was a blinding fluorescent light as the doors opened.  Carefully prepared students tiptoe into the consecrated multipurpose chamber. We each took our place at the feet of the Test. May the Test be with you. And time begins… now.

Years later, I am still haunted by my frequent unholy gatherings in the presence of the Almighty Standardized Test. It causes me great concern, not because of nervous anticipation to fill in the bubble COMPLETELY with my # 2 pencil, but rather, it is now my children who are led to the place of the Test. The Test has come calling for their time, attention, and souls.

I use tests all the time with my children. It is a snapshot of their understanding of a particular concept I have taught to them. I test them on their Latin roots, algebra concepts, biology discoveries, and grammatical rules. Why does the Church of the Standardized Test cause my stomach to turn?

You see, when the Test has written your name in his book of Standards, we are no longer free. I am either a 239 or 502 in math. I am either below level or on level. I am measured on a very narrow chart of failure. Some are fortunate enough to claw their way out of the scale of deficiency, but no one is free from its bondage. We are marked acceptable or not acceptable by the declaration of the Test.

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Observing the amazing unique minds given to each of my children, I can see the foolishness of the Standardized Test. Children are more than an inhuman score. Watching the stress it causes my fellow parents, I can see the dangerous grip of the Standardized Test. Parents believe its lies of the unworthiness of their child. Looking in the future, I can only see one way to stand before the Test.

“You have no power over me.”

We worship the one and only true God. You and your children are His special creatures. Christ made sure that nothing as silly as a measure of worth would separate us from the love of God. Remind your children who they really are in this world:  ones who have been made acceptable, not because of their grades or their scores, but by the sacrifice of Christ.

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2 thoughts on “The Reign of the Standardized Test

  1. In reality, the “standardized tests” of my ancient school days were only terrifying to the unprepared. I was not the brightest in the class, but I had good teachers and I studied to get my B Grades and a few A’s in subjects I liked, like English, History, and Religion. A Catholic then and after 9 years of parochial school discipline, they pretty much had us in line. I do get your point in this essay.

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  2. Man, you think its bad in America. Try going to Asia! I studied abroad in Taiwan and the system of standardized testing in Asia is nuts! Children start school at 7am and don’t finish until 9pm. There are no sports. There is no unsupervised play time. Life is studying, from dawn til dusk and even beyond. It is all in hopes of passing the next big test because the tests not only determine the college you get into, but even the high school. And there are no community colleges for a second chance. Screw up on your high school admittance test, and you’ll be doing manual labor for the rest of your life, whether you like it or not. If you want to go to a good college and become a member of the upperclass/elite, you better do really well on your exams, or you’re toast. There’s not much class mobility beyond that point.

    Standardized testing in Asia is a Law that man should be forced to endure, let alone children! I probably would have killed myself if I grew up in Asia.

    I hope this is not where we are headed in America.

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