Assessing assessments

Joe Bandy

One of the biggest challenges teens face these days is the mental and sometimes physical stress brought on by testing and the pressures it entails. No matter the class, there is some form of assessment wherein you perform a task that the teacher has (supposedly) already taught you to do.

It seems fairly straightforward and simple, yet it is something that is torturing our generation and not going unnoticed. Schools are implementing systems like Standards Based Grading to help relieve some of the stress brought on by these tests.

But even if those are implemented, you still have standardized tests like the ACT and AP exams and the SAT given out by the College Board. Why do these stress us out? There are many factors, but there are three reasons that I believe to be the most prevalent and stressful:

1) Time: America is one of the few countries that actually puts a time limit on tests. Other than the fact that this teaches horrible problem solving (we’re told if we don’t know a problem, skip it) it adds unnecessary stress to tests. Why should the time in which you can solve a problem reflect your ability to do so?

2) Exaggeration: we are frequently told either directly or indirectly that certain tests like the ACT or even an AP exam are extremely important and that they’re the end all be all. If you don’t do well, you will automatically work at a fast food restaurant for the rest of your life. If you don’t get one point higher this time, you won’t make it into any college. This is how I look at it: if a college is only going to look at me based on a single number as if that accurately represents who I am, I don’t even want to go there. Many may disagree with me on this, but just know other factors play into college like essays and GPA.

3) “Success”: all too often, I think this how many students see their scales on tests:
Success: 100-92; 
Failure: 00-91
Or something like that where they have a fine line drawn in their heads where, if they don’t get a certain number or above, they failed. What’s worse is that these thoughts are encouraged either directly or indirectly by teachers, peers and even parents. We get too caught up in the numbers we’re judged by and not the things we’re learning.

The bottom line is this: most tests you take, in all reality, hold minimal significance. If you’re going to worry about something, worry about this: are you learning? Or are you just shoving content down your throat to regurgitate it on tests? If you’re doing the latter, you’re doing it wrong. We have the opportunity to attend one of the best schools in this state for free. If you were to bring a child to America and put them in school, their concern would not be their grade. Their concern would be learning as much as they could each and every day and enjoying it. That is what you should be striving for. If you do that, the grades will follow.


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