Smart or Not Smart

I speak often about the ill effects of our testing culture on our students. My concerns tend to focus on the fact that when you give the “big test” five to six times a year, the significance of a student “trying their best” dissipates. Or you will hear me speak about the validity of the tests that are far from meaningful, because an answer choice that fits neatly into a bubble, just can’t measure meaningful complex student learning.

The one effect that I had not spoken to was the one that most of us know all too well-anxiety. Last Saturday, my daughter took a test. The fear, nerves and anxiety began the night before exhibited by waking up multiple times due to being worried about the test. The morning fared no better. She awoke early. The task of getting dressed caused tears and frustration. Eating breakfast was pointless. Multiple prolonged trips to the restroom nearly caused us to miss the 8:45 a.m. arrival time.

As a dried her eyes and rubbed her stomach, I asked the question: “What’s wrong? Why are you so worried about the test?” Her response was not earth shattering, but definitely heart breaking. “Mama, if I don’t pass the test…I won’t be smart…and everyone in my reading and math group are gifted.”

Now, of course I spoke about the fact that a test doesn’t determine if you are smart or not smart. A test doesn’t determine your love of learning or doing your best. Her tears continued to flow. I strongly contemplated withdrawing her from the morning of testing. But, I didn’t…testing is a way of life in 2013.

Or is it? Is testing a way of life for all kids or for some kids? Should kids cry about a test or shrug it off? Any chance the way our students react to a test is the way their teacher reacts? Any possibility a teacher reaction is related to society’s reaction to testing?


Daniela A. Robles

Daniela A. Robles

Phoenix, Arizona

I am a teacher and beginning my fourteenth year of teaching in Arizona’s public schools. The greatest lessons I learned were from teaching first grade for ten years. My inspirations stem from these past few years where my classroom has ranged from the Intervention Room to the Coaches’ Room.

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