Testing Stress

Simply utter the word ‘test’ and watch most people become tense with anxiety and discomfort. Our culture, especially in recent years, has placed undue pressure on children, in particular, to perform on demand and to perform well. We have allowed standardized test scores to determine a child’s placement, their status, their very success: from the APGAR given to newborns to the Board exams given to medical and law student graduates.

Testing inspires fear simply because the stakes are artificially and arbitrarily high. In many instances, an outstanding performance on a single test indicates nothing more than an outstanding performance on a single test. It is not a measure of current knowledge, an accurate assessment of potential or even an accurate measure of how well that student would do on the same test on another day. The reliability and the validity of academic standardized testing is always in question. Many very poor students test extremely well and many brilliant students test very poorly. Regardless, outstanding scores from an outstanding student should be a by-product of that student’s academic life, not the goal of that student’s life or the goal of an education.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc with many features of American education and testing is an area in which the pandemic has had a major impact. We should use this interruption in our currently flawed model of academic assessment to alter the ways in which we measure achievement and utilize those measurements.

This pandemic IS the test for educators themselves.