What Tests Don’t Measure

One of my goals this summer is to study for and take the GRE. Although I have taken hundreds of tests in my life, this one costs $195 and the possibility of entrance into graduate school. So I’m taking it fairly seriously.

However, I recently came across this wonderful reminder about what tests don’t measure:

courtesy of http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jul/15/headteacher-note-pupils-viral-lancashire-primary-school-barrowford-nelson

photo courtesy of The Guardian / Twitter

The letter–from principal Rachel Tomlinson of Barrowford Primary School in Lancashire, England–accompanied students test scores to encourage them that this test does not define their worth as individuals.

My favorite part is the farewell line: “So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.”

In the United States, we have become increasingly reliant on standardized tests to measure student performance. While our lawmakers worry about competing with scores in countries on the other side of the world, our students are left constrained by a system suffering from cuts to the performing arts and creative educational opportunities.

The reminder that “there are many ways of being smart” should encourage us to think about what those ways are, and whether students are actually being given the opportunity to explore them.

I am incredibly grateful for every teacher I had that encouraged me to think outside the boxes of a, b, c, or d. From my dance teachers who taught me the importance of self-confidence, soccer coaches who encouraged me to try even when I was un-athletic, my high school US History teacher that taught us the history behind rock songs, my high school senior english teacher that made it a project to chronicle our experience in a creative scrapbook, and my college professors who took us to plays and poetry readings to learn through experiences–thank you. You still gave me tests and grades, but you also gave me so much more.

This is a lesson we all have to learn once we leave the confines of school and testing. We need to be reminded of our beautiful complexities that make us so much more than any kind of score. It also wouldn’t hurt if we started teaching kids this while they are still in the educational system. Otherwise they will be like myself and many other post-grads who don’t remember their worth when they no longer have a grade to tell it to them.

Yes, the GRE is an important test and I do need to study for it. No, it does not define who I am. Tests show one way of being smart, but my abilities to avoid Chicago potholes while driving, cook over a campfire, hike across mountains, and engage with other people prove that I am more than a test score. That is true for you too.

What defines you outside of test scores?
How do you think our educational system can improve to teach kids how to be smart in areas other than testing?
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