The Good Ol’ Days of Standardized Tests

By Dominick Cooper, Director and Lead Creative Tutor of Launch Academy, Winner of the Davinci Scholarship, and University Guest Speaker

Once upon a time, there was a day when standardized tests were AMAZING! They were quick (relatively speaking), effective, and easily administered, graded, and compared. Everybody was happy.

But fast forward to today and nobody is happy! Standardized tests are the reason for teacher woes, administrative pressures, and political evidence of “being effective.” How did this flip flop happen?! There are many reasons but it boils down to three (Michael Bolton is not included in this list):

1) The Age of Enlightenment: Oh yes. That period of time you had a test over in 10th grade had some pretty far-reaching effects. Prior to this time (The Renaissance), Math, Science, and the Arts worked in harmony. There was no division between being an artist, a mathematician, or a scientist. Upon the age of the enlightenment, however, these areas became isolated for specific reasons – deeper knowledge, specialized applications, etc. Reason and logic became the tools of truth and thus the seeds of the hierarchy of mathematics and science were planted.

2) The Industrial Revolution: The industrial revolution was a period of time characterized by the development of factories and sudden, mass production in a variety of industries. From agriculture to transportation, every sector of the economy was effected by it – not in the least was education. The industrial revolution called for a mass population of intellectual citizens and public schools bared that responsibility. Individuals thus graduated with an elected skill set that was seen as beneficial for the goals of industry. However, these skills needed to be tested and be tested efficiently. Thus, the standardized test was born.

3) Technology: From the 1950s on, computers have increasingly become a part of the school culture. As their computational capabilities and speeds began to improve, schools began to take advantage of this. Suddenly, the burdensome task of grading 120 tests (if not more) could be accomplished by a computer in a matter of minutes. Thus the comfort and ease of scantrons settled into educational circles and have been a part of it ever since.

While these reasons are valid, there’s something to realize – we live in a different age.

The industrial revolution and age of enlightenment have passed. Our education addressed the issues of that time period but, seeing as our challenges are anew, we must educate anew. Individuals like Sir Ken Robinson, Daniel Pink, Howard Gardner, and Tony Wagner have been reputable advocates for this. However, real change can still only be accomplished by the public. Until a demand for change is placed on the system, there will never be one. That demand lies in your hands and those of visionary educators.


Stay Smart.

Dominick Cooper

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