The Test Doesn’t Matter

ID-10013636As we lay sleeping, my eldest son began to thrash around a bit. He started talking in his sleep. “I need to divide these into different groups…” he mumbled as his voice trailed off.

It’s ISTEP week at our house. The test the state insists one must pass in order to go on to fourth grade. For a nine-year-old the stakes seem incredibly high. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

Before bed he had asked what would happen if he failed. “You have nothing to worry about,” I replied. “Everything will be fine.”

“But what if I do fail?”

“Then I will pull you out of school and teach you myself, because no test can determine how smart you are.”

And I believe that with every fiber of my being. No test on the planet can determine how smart someone is. Because there are different kinds of smart, and society has it all wrong. Because we value percentages, numbers, and achievement. Who cares about hard work, character, natural ability, and true genius. Albert Einstein didn’t do well in school, yet he was one of the smartest people that ever lived. I wonder how he would have done on the ISTEP?

My son’s teacher sent home a blank lined sheet of paper for the parents to write their kids a letter to be opened before they took the test. In a nutshell, here’s what mine said:

Everyone at school will tell you this test matters. That it is more important than anything else you do. But your dad and I already know how smart you are, and this test can’t prove otherwise. What we are more concerned about is that you are kind, caring, respectful and responsible. Those are the things in life that truly matter. 

Even for the student who struggles greatly, they have been beautifully gifted. The education system may put them in a box that says otherwise, but the rest of us know the truth. Every person has value, regardless of a stamp of pass or fail.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking its stupid.” Albert Einstein

What are your thoughts on standardized testing? What is the redemption in that mess?

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One thought on “The Test Doesn’t Matter

  1. What a beautiful response. I know you guys are raising a bright, kind, loving boy (well, two actually). I don’t remember thinking those tests were such a big deal when I was in school. I think that was a better time in a lot of ways.

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