Hear Me Out: Our Kids Need More Testing

This morning, I danced, prayed, was peppy, and made turbo snacks. I spoke life, and I prayed. I encouraged. I prayed...Then I watched my nine-year-old baby, terror in her eyes, tears flowing against her will, head in to take her first state test. I sank in exhaustion, sadness, and, honestly, fire-raging fury.
What if we stopped?
As her parents, we have shouted from the rooftops that we are not obsessed
or even concerned with how our kids perform on standardized tests. We know they are intelligent. We know they are hard workers. We know they love to learn. That is all we can and will ask them to be during their years of formal education.

Their teachers have taught the standards; they repeatedly encourage the kids
not to be afraid, but we all know that there is the underlying tension of state funding, school scores, and reputation.  So we lay our kids out on the altar of performance evaluation we have erected as the standard for proof of education. And they are crumbling under the pressure.
What if we stopped?
Why have we decided the world will end if the ‘powers that be’ don’t have numbers in front of them to judge success from afar? In reality, when the world actually did stop, one of the first things we threw out of the boat as a nonessential WAS the state test.
What if we stopped?
What if we talked this out? What is the REAL goal? The purpose of education
is to teach kids, right? To equip them to be good citizens who take their unique skills and improve the world. If that is indeed the goal, then why does half, if not the majority of their school year, move in the flow of state testing prep? Can we talk about this? Does this evaluation tool work against the actual goal?

I am not a formal educator. My classroom experience is the 19 years I spent in school myself. I am not proposing that I have all the answers; I am simply putting some ideas and ponderings on the table in hopes of getting a conversation started. We should consider checking our current reality against the fundamental mission. We may have veered off course.
What if we stopped?
Here is my outlandish thought: What if we tested our kids? You read that
right. Hang with me. What if, from an early age (end of elementary/middle school?), we utilized tests like Strength’s Finders, Strong’s Interest Inventory, Myers Briggs? What if we handed kids tangible feedback about their natural aptitude? What if we show them where their interests and talents collide, then give them some paths to consider as they move forward? What if we handed school
counselors THESE test results and allowed them to use their mad counseling skills to speak life and direction into students?

I went to grad school with future school counselors. We took almost all the same classes. They are GOOD at helping people connect their gifts with direction. What if we use testing money to empower kids? What if we taught them to dream about how their natural abilities and interests could become careers? How many kids spend their school years struggling with traditional learning simply because they have never been encouraged to see how they can practically apply the basics in light of their interests?

I am a writer and an artist. I didn’t discover these passions until I was neck-deep in student loans for a psychology degree and a master’s degree in counseling. In High School, I was an honor student; therefore, I followed a college path. It never crossed my mind that taking the welding class offered in the vocational program at my high school could have benefited me. But here I am, 43 years old, and I can dream of sculptures and art pieces requiring those technical, hands-on skills. I will be raw and transparent. I viewed vocational training as what you did if you couldn’t make good grades: which I now realize is my own ignorance. I doubt I’m the only one. It screams the brokenness of our tunnel vision education style. Empowering and equipping people to thrive in their gifts and interest is 100% the way to succeed at the goal of education. It’s time to tighten our cord to the plumb line. What is the purpose?

I took the AP classes and made A’s, but what I learned was how to be a good test taker. What if I had taken AP biology from the perspective of becoming an artist? I would have studied animals and nature and their environments to learn how they move, grow, and interact so I would have a better idea of how to paint them.  I would have loved that.  I would have studied literature to ponder the author’s rhythms. I would have searched to understand how they pace their writing to lead readers to feel and experience things. In reality, I found cliff notes, made an  A, and never considering its relevance to my future. I’m sure geometry would benefit something somehow, but it was horrible, and it’s ok to have trauma flashbacks when it comes up. I would have embraced business classes if I had known to dream of being self-employed.

Let’s consider the more profound social impact. How many kids grow up in environments where they are rarely encouraged to dream for their future by nurturing their natural gifts and abilities? How many have rough home lives where they struggle, then come to school where they struggle? Environments that should encourage and nurture shift into critics that declare them a problem, inconvenience, or trouble. We have overcrowded schools, overwhelmed with needs and behavior issues, full of kids who are never told what they are good at. It's a perfect recipe for kids to fall through the cracks and follow destructive paths.  What do we expect kids to become if they are only told they are bad? Let yourself stop and feel that. Let your heart break for these cycles of condemnation and discouragement.  Picture them:  Kids wired with the potential to be innovative leaders in unique fields, kids who could make amazing impacts in their community with just a little insight and encouragement.  Kids who were never designed to fit in a mold.  What if we equipped them with direction based on helpful test results? 

Giving every kid words to describe their gifting could break cycles and empower the next generation to become dreamers who thrive in the unique way God designed them. It crosses cultural boundaries and socioeconomic boundaries. One way we are equal is that we are all good at something. Figuring out what that is from an early age allows people an alternative to wandering aimlessly.

I know there are more issues we need to address. I dream of creating pathways for people thriving in their fields to encourage kids with the aptitude to head in the same direction. I would love mentor programs, adults telling kids what they wish they had known at their age and giving practical advice on pursuing their dreams. How unique would that curriculum be? You could have time during your school year for podcast-style learning you pick from a vast database based on your
I could go on for days with ideas like this. We have gotten too tall for the box. Let’s hop out and be creative. Let’s be proactive. What if we started dreaming together about ways to equip Generation Alpha to be a new, fresh, healthy
Here are a few of the things I’ve painted in schools over the years to inspire the next generation of artist to keep dreaming. 

Older Post Newer Post

  • Sally Baker on

    Yes. There is a balance between all things. I believe that part of our issue is that learning happens in silos. If your approach to biology as an artist involved looking at the ratios of the size of animals to their surroundings, learning how to scale your painting for a 4×6 or 5×7 or a 12×16, you’d be learning algebra and geometry. If you learned the effects of humans on that habitat, you’d be learning social studies. If you learned about how that animal makes sounds, you’d be learning science. And if you talked about the rhythms of the animal’s life, you could learn rhythm and patterns in music, visual art, science, math and social studies. Kids don’t learn in silos, but we teach in silos.
    Check out the PAIR program. Pairprogram.org

  • Lindsay on

    Yes x 1000! We should be equipping and empowering our children with life skills. Working with their hands, cooking, sewing, working hard to make money and balancing a checkbook.
    I have met so many intelligent people that aced all tests but when it came to everyday life skills they were lacking.

  • Emoree Logan Rice on

    This is amazing! You should send this to the higher ups in the school systems and the school board and the government and everything!!!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

❤️ Stay Connected :: Let me send you weekly emails ❤️

* indicates required