A Nation Without Skills (But Our Standardized Test Scores are OK!)

Our schools focus on standardized testing which, for the most part, determine how adept students are in choosing among four possible “right answers” or “none of the above.”

Now that has value!

Or does it?

Certainly our government thinks it does!

Measurements in the form of standardized test scores are the way “performing schools” are distinguished from “non-performing schools.” In the one, students are very well prepared to choose from the multiple choice options – and in the other, they’re not so well prepared. So we close those schools who don’t teach how to take the tests.

The late Ted Sizer, founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools, said that “ . . . standardized testing has little or no value. Certainly the SAT test can predict, with some accuracy, how well a student might do during his/her first semester in college, but that’s about all. Standardized tests do not measure what a student knows; they measure how well students can take tests!”

I’m sure that is important to a skill-starved America where businesses and professions look for new employees who know how to DO.

That’s cynical, of course, but, sadly, there is a lot of truth in it. Maybe some day:

  • Employers will insist on standardized test scores to be included in hiring applications;
  • Executive recruiters will look first for individuals who have only SAT scores above 750 in every subject when it comes to top management searches;
  • Employers will change from performance-based appraisals of their employees to a standardized test.
  • Some other ridiculous thing.

The way our schools are structured these days with the heavy emphasis on standardized test results, the programs that actually “teach” critical skills and other skills are de-emphasized and often cut to the bone. These include the performing arts, athletics, speech classes, debate teams, and other activities that integrate the kind of skills that students will need not only in the workforce, but life itself.

Hopefully the day will NOT come when all an individual has to put on his/her resume will be, “Well, I don’t really have any skills, but here are my standardized test scores!”

I’m sure someone will be impressed – but not even the organizations who create and administer such tests would even give a second look at such a resume.

Maybe some day we will learn.

I certainly hope so.


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