Warning to all high school students: An obsession is spreading. If you haven’t already been sucked in, then it’ll get you any day now. And even if it doesn’t get you, it is getting everyone around you and that will make you part of its drudgery. It is apparent that an epidemic-like fixation with test scores has developed throughout the American high school educational system.
Teachers, students, parents and colleges seem to assume that high test scores on standardized tests of basic skills equates with a good education, which is utterly false. One’s ability to answer a series of questions over a period of 25 minutes is not an accurate representation of the span of one’s knowledge. High school education needs to be focused on developing life skills and the understanding of core subjects, not the memorization of test-taking strategies. If our current method continues, the difference between training and educating will become increasingly unclear. Our generation and ones to come need to be attracted to receiving an education, not repelled by it or fearful of it, thinking that it means only menial work, test preparation and test-taking. The education that high-schoolers receive needs to be worthwhile and unforgettable, not only useful when taking standardized tests. Knowing how to bubble-in a Scantron and solve timed math problems won’t do one much good when one is an adult who is dealing with the world outside of high school. As a junior, I feel that there are many important life skills that high school education does not cover, such as how to pay bills, buy a house and enroll in Obamacare.
I’m not implying that high schools and colleges should entirely focus on our ability to fill a gas tank, buy groceries, book an airline ticket or hotel online or manage one’s finances — certainly examples of very important skills for a practical adult. A good education should allow us to make our way through those challenges, but also teach us how to debate an issue, speak publicly with confidence, develop presentations and analyses, conduct research to find solutions to problems, use both discipline and creativity to change the world, work in teams, lead when leadership is needed and ... well, the list goes on. We are getting that education from our parents, teachers, group projects, term papers, social interactions and, to some degree, memorization and test-taking. But do memorization and test-taking skills really indicate how knowledgeable we are? One who is not always a good test-taker should not particularly feel that one’s education is lacking. I can appreciate the need to “grade” students so they know not only how they compare to others but also how they are progressing (or not) versus norms, but an overemphasis on test scores might be missing the point of an education — wouldn’t you agree? (This was a test question by the way ... how did you do?)
Instead of worrying so much about test scores, high school and college communities need to worry about the quality of the education that their students are receiving. It was Sir Francis Bacon who said, “Knowledge is power” — possessing true knowledge of the world and how it works is the gateway to a satisfying career and to a successful future. I’ll be honest that, as a high school student, I can’t truly understand how to make use of it — I’m still learning. See, that’s the point — my inability to pinpoint an example or definition of the phrase in a test mode doesn’t mean that I haven’t learned to appreciate the meaning and importance of it.
Here’s a test for you:
Of the choices given, what is the best interpretation of the phrase, “Knowledge is power?”
A). Knowledge weighs a lot, so carry a big backpack.
B). Learning is important, but gaining power is the real motivator.
C). Knowledge can be measured because we know power can be.
D). All of the above.
E). None of the above.
Correct answer: You know me better than that!
Mari Andreatta is a junior at Notre Dame High School in Belmont. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at firstname.lastname@example.org.