Today our educational system is obsessed with standardized tests. They are the means by which student's performance is assessed, teacher's effectiveness is assessed, and schools are assessed, so the states can divvy up the money.
The common line heard over and over explains that these standardized tests are essential to assess a students skills and knowledge to make sure everyone is on the same level (which opens up a completely different problem that I will address in another post). However, when we look at reality, these tests are not assessing the students, they are simply telling us what they are not good at.
Why do we need someone (something) else telling us what we already know?
For example, I recently purchased the TASC Test Preparation Book (the new GED that is more closely aligned with Common Core). It is a good resource to have at the Center, because I may have students who decide to take this high school equivalency exam, or there may be adults in the community who would left school and would like to get their GED, so they can go to college. It sat on the shelf for a couple weeks, then I got curious. What do you need to know to pass the TASC? I decided to take the pretest at the front of the book that determines whether the student needs to study further or if they are ready to take the actual test.
The TSAC consists of five different test areas: Language Arts: Reading, Language Arts: Writing, Math, Social Studies, and Science. The last four are further broken down into two parts each. There are nine tests altogether. It took about three hours to complete them, broken up over a few evenings.
Lo and behold, I learned exactly what I have known my whole entire life (well for a good portion of it), I don't understand Algebra. I got 10 out of 22 questions wrong. Not at all surprising considering it took me four tries to pass the Algebra regents in the early 80's.
But yet, somehow, I have graduated from college-twice, the second time Summa Cum Laude from SUNY Potsdam. I have enjoyed multiple careers, raised two children who are happy, engaged humans, and have most recently founded a not-for-profit.
This is not a brag session,really! My point is fairly simple, I have survived and, yes, thrived for nearly 50 years, without understanding Algebra. Why does our society insist that what we know is more important than our ability to learn new things?
I believe that we are adaptable, ever learning human beings. What I 'learned' in grade school, high school or even in college, does not define who I am. I was fortunate to discover my love of learning through my interest in Anthropology. All of the knowledge I pursue today is because I am passionately interested in learning about it or it is necessary to what I am trying to accomplish.
Yes, it all comes back to intrinsic, self motivation, and self-directed learning. In the end, if someone who left school wants to go to college, they need to take the TASC High School Equivalency Test. The same goes for opening a Non Profit in the US, or starting a farm, or ... fill in the blank. Sometimes you have to suck it up and follow the rules, to realize the goal at the end, all the while realizing, the rest of your life can be lived on your own terms.