“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain
I want you to travel back in time with me. The year? 2006. I’m a junior in high school, and just found out that I failed the math portion of the State Standardized testing exam. As a result, I need to take remedial math classes in order to graduate high school. Now, I’d love to tell you that I absolutely sucked at school… but honestly I didn’t. In my high school class I went on to graduate number 96 out of almost 400 students; and college? I double majored and earned two bachelor degrees, one of which was Economics which generally relied on some quantitative math skills and analysis. I finished college with a 3.4 GPA. Throughout my education I always pulled generally good grades; finishing on honor roll or high honor roll almost every marking period. Yet, there was always one week out of the year that would make me proverbially shit myself; State standardized testing week. My state testing career started in the third grade and lasted to the twelfth, and yet I honestly was absolutely horrific at taking those tests. Let’s fast forward to 2017. I’m 28 years old and have been out of high school for 10 years, yet the lesson those tests taught me were a little more than the subject matter I proved to fail. Here are three reasons why I, and I’m sure many others, owe our success partially to State Standardized Testing:
Grit – I haven’t met one person who likes to sit in a classroom with a moderator for four hours taking a test. Come to think of it I haven’t met a person who likes to sit in a four hour meeting at work listening to people lecture either. See what I’m getting at? State tests teach grit to all those who don’t want to be there. I know when I was growing up that was me. I think most people would agree it’s important in life to do things that you don’t want to do, to get out of our comfort zones; it’s the only way to grow. Our brains have one job; to protect us, and we all love to take the path of least resistance. It’s always easier to not ask or negotiate for the raise, to not ask for help, and learn to accept things. Yet, what if you were forced to go against the grain? In my case, sitting through lengthy tests proved to me that sometimes you need to suck it up, do your time, and do what’s necessary and best to move on to the next chapter.
Time Management – I think what messed me up the most during standardized tests is knowing that you have a boat load of questions in front of you, on subjects you might not really care about, and oh yea you have like 10 minutes to complete them; good luck! Now I’ll share a little wisdom from experience; do not turn your scan tron sideways and make a smiley face by coloring in the corresponding circles, I assure you that is not a good idea… But I will share another piece of knowledge that I did learn. Time management. State tests are your first crack at time management. When will time management come into play? When it’s 3pm and your boss needs that report on his desk by 4:30pm, or when you’re managing five real estate clients and you need to manage your time between showing houses, writing contracts, and going to closings. You see what I’m getting at. It’s rarely touched upon, but I would certainly credit standardized testing to the introduction and cultivation of time management.
Be Prepared – Showing up to a test without a pencil sucks. Showing up to a presentation without anything prepared in front of the company sucks a little more. One thing that standardized testing taught me was to be prepared, mostly mentally. To me, tests were intimidating; that’s why my weapon of choice is writing. Writing is something I can carefully think about, take my time with, and always come back to. From a young age I realized I didn’t like to be put on the spot for something I couldn’t prepare for, especially to test my knowledge. Yet as I grew up and experienced life a little more I also realized there are so many situations and circumstances both professionally and personally that we could never prepare for. Like those tests, we sometimes need to take our best educated guesses and move on to the next question. Don’t get hung up on that one thing, or time will certainly expire.
Conclusion – If you’ve made it this far in this blog you’re probably thinking, so does this guy like standardized tests or does he hate them? My answer is a little of both. Do I think standardized tests are useful in testing any child’s knowledge of subject matter? Not at all. I think there are children who are great confident test takers and then there are those, like me, who psych themselves out about tests; getting anxious and even stressed about their performance. Yet, I feel there are underlying lessons in these tests that will prove useful throughout one’s life. What are your thoughts? Do you think standardized testing is useful in schools to wage academia? Or do you feel there is a greater or no purpose to them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!