Testing vs learning

Maya took a test the other day.   It was a standardized test.  We took it so as to be in compliance with NYC Dept. of Ed regulations and for no other reason.   We don’t really care what the results are.    The results are no reflection on her intelligence, only on her test taking skills.

Because we rarely take tests (one every other year) I forget what a bizarre experience the whole thing is, and then suddenly we’re participating in it, and I find myself shaking my head.  All this fuss over testing; all this money spent, and for what?

Testing is not meaningful or lasting and therefore has nothing to do with learning.    Low test scores in a particular subject are no more telling than are high test scores.   While Maya was taking the test it was obvious that she did better early on in every section.  By the time we reached the end she was tired and bored and annoyed.   If I had to bet, I’d bet that over half the questions she got wrong came in the last 1/4 of any given section.   This is not because the questions get progressively more difficult.  They don’t.  They’re just tedious and uninteresting.

If this is true for us, in the comfort of our home and with zero pressure put on Maya to perform well, how much truer would it be for kids who are under immense pressure from school and parents, having spent weeks “prepping” for the test?

Let’s juxtapose test taking, which we do so rarely, with learning, which is happening all the time.

At least once a day both my kids approach me to tell me about something they’ve learned.  Of course, they don’t usually say, “Hey Mom!  Guess what I just learned?”   Instead, they talk in detail about a new skill they taught themselves as a result of something they read on line.   Or they display a finished project and walk me through the building of it step by step.

Unlike while taking a test, their eyes are bright, their faces expressive and they are usually moving around, either from the excitement of their achievement or as part of the telling of the story.   They are enjoying themselves.

Want to see real learning?   Ditch the tests.   Ditto the forced curriculum.  Give the kids free reign to do the things they love to do, and you won’t be able to stop the learning.   Why would you want to?


Leave a Comment