An Open Essay by 16-year-old Denis McCormick
“People like to say we need to prepare students for real life, and what I counter that with is why don’t we make schools like real life itself-bring experiences outside of school into the school environment.”
This is a powerful quote from young education activist Nikhil Goyal (pictured above),who inspired me to further question standardized testing. As a student, I understand the importance of tests to track the progress of schools and individuals, but students shouldn’t be ranked based on test scores. The multiple-choice format of testing is a simplistic and inefficient way of assessment. It doesn’t show who the students are.
For example, students shouldn’t be labeled as “advanced,” “proficient” or “basic,” based on their answers to test questions. Coming from a low ranked school, I’ve seen students score poorly on these tests; meanwhile they have valuable real-life problem solving skills. I know that some of the things we learn are useful, but when will I be challenged in real life to fill in bubbles?
Schools put so much emphasis on the multiple choice section of standardized tests, but in the real world nothing will be given to us on a Scantron sheet with a packet full of multiple choice questions. As students, we struggle to find value in the state assessment system.
When I found out that our school district ranking was 437 out of 500, I felt that the Pittsburgh Business Times article was wrong and other students had mixed emotions. Some people agreed with the ranking, while others were mad, hurt and disappointed. We took action to make people realize that we are more than a number ranked by a system that fails to measure our real qualities. We all asked, ”Does this really define us? Are we really this bad?” We quickly shot down this thought and said, “We are more complex than what a test says about us. We are more than a number.” Then we decided as a collective group (The Future is Mine) to interview people on this topic and see how they felt about being labeled as “437”
Watch my documentary "437" here.
The state should provide more than just numbers about the students and the school district. The writers at the Pittsburgh Business Times were given the statistics and they were doing what they were supposed to do. The numbers don’t show anything about the students’ character or their community.
It is difficult to measure creativity and social involvement, but we should be ranked and defined by more than our test scores. We never get a chance to tell the true stories about our community and the quality of the people who live there. We are all held back by the statistics and we need to break the shackles of the “standardization” of our community and tell the real stories.
Denis McCormick is a junior at Steel Valley High School