Education & School

A Midsemester Night’s Dream: Make Testing Awesome

Make Testing Awesome!

What if we just admitted that standardized tests are first designed to suck – and then tried to have fun with them anyway?  Imagine students representing different classrooms with flags and colors (perhaps uniforms) with pump-up music blasting.  Everyone in the school would gather in the stadium, anxiety would be in the air.  We’d all ceremoniously turn and face the american flag and the members of the municipal band would perform a dixieland rendition of the “Anthem of Learning” written by a teacher in Boston in 1998 the morning after a particularly grueling test day.

The gym teacher would give a quick pep talk, or the mayor, or Kid President:

Teachers would have fan signs, painted faces, and the news would be circling overhead in a helicopter, trying to get a viewpoint on the action.  The pep talk would echo out to people in the street:

“… This is your time.  This is my time.  This is our time …”

But seriously, why not?  The fact that we, the United States, home of countless pointless celebrations, unending sports seasons and a near constant state of holiday cannot summon the least reverence for testing day at school indicates to me that something must be drastically wrong with our tests.  We celebrate Groundhog Day unwaveringly.  We send over 500 athletes to the Olympics.  We love challenges.  So, what’s different about testing?

The dream of awesome testing is alive and well at the Quest To Learn school (the first of the Quest Schools where games can be learningful). Their big tests are called “boss levels” and students take on new, big, hairy challenges, build machines and work creatively in groups to prove their ability.  The whole community is invited to celebrate their prowess and strain.

This testing season, I’m going to camp out the night before on the lawn at the local elementary school so I can get a decent place in line and beat the door busters: kids always get to test day as early as possible to get warmed up and review strategy with their peers.

Maybe it’s time we recognize that tests aren’t going away for a while.  So we might as well make them awesome.

What would Kid President say?

“The world needs you.  Stop being boring.”

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