A Testing Story

I’m just thinking out loud here, which means that this is bound to be controversial.

One of the stories that we tell involves our test scores and why ours lag behind those of other industrial countries. We say, “Oh, but we are testing such a higher percentage of our students than they are. They are testing only their best.”

I got to thinking about this the other day. If we say that we are testing 90% of our students (and they are testing only 50% of theirs), are we saying 90% of all 17 and 18 year olds in the U.S.? Or are we saying 90% of the 17 and 18 year olds who are still in school, often as little as 60% of older teens, and sometimes as little as 50%. If we are reporting only those still in school, then I suspect that the percentages may “flatten” out.

Now I have always felt that tracking students into specific schools based on test performances in the early teens was too harsh. To me, personally, it is down right scary. If I had attended such schools, and taken such tests, I’d probably be fixing air conditioners today. I might be happy at it, and I would certainly be contributing enormously to the comfort and happiness of other people. But there is much that I’ve experienced since I was 18, that would have been lost.

Still, what’s better, having 40% of our students in trade schools, or having 40% of our students on the streets. The fact of the matter is that in a world of rapid change, where most of us will have five different jobs to retool for, tracking students for life has become utterly obsolete. Perhaps our goal should be to provide appropriate education to all students at all ages, rather than a robust education to all students until they reach their 13th year, or drop out.

Just thinkin’ out loud.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.