He sighs heavily and shoves the books and papers forward across the table as he drops his head in their place, arms outstretched. “I’m never going to pass this stupid test!”
His mother puts the lid back on the pot and wipes her hands on a tea towel. “Sure, you will,” she says encouragingly. “You’re going to go in there and take that test tomorrow and do the very best that you can. You’ll remember everything that your teacher taught you last year, everything the tutor taught you last month, everything that your big brother and I have helped you with. You’re going to be fine.” Inside her head she pushes back the fear that she shares with her son; the WHAT IF?
“But Mom,” he half-whispers with a look of panic on his face, “I don’t get most of these practice questions STILL and I’ve been working on this all summer. I’m not going to be able to do it. I should just focus on getting a job.” His mother runs her hand through his unruly curls and then sits down at the kitchen table next to him.
“Sounds like you already failed and you haven’t even arrived at the testing site yet,” she says. He rolls his eyes.
“You know what I mean. This is the fourth time I’ve taken this dumb test and I don’t want to take it. It just makes me feel stupid!”
“Honey,” his mother says in a serious tone. “This test does not define you. It is not a measuring stick for how smart you are or how talented you are. It’s not even a good measuring stick for seeing how much you learned over the course of a school year. I’ve had teachers tell me that only about 40-50% of the questions are even covered during the curriculum. It’s not really even a good indicator for what the state thinks it’s measuring.”
“What does the state think it’s measuring?” he asks. His mother explains how someone thought that these standardized tests would be a good way to evaluate the ability of teachers based on the number of correct answers chosen by students.
“But what if a student has been absent a lot? That’s not the fault of the teacher. And what about in my situation where I lived in another country my whole life and missed 2 years of school altogether between moves and English lessons once I got here?” The boy brings up valid points that are missed on most politicians.
“Exactly,” his mother agrees. “So, do you think that this test is something that determines how smart you are or how good a person you are or how far you are going to go in life?”
“No,” the boy replies with a look of understanding on his face. “It’s just another stepping stone on my way to graduation. And if I don’t pass it this time, you’ll help me find another way to learn this stuff and I’ll pass it the next time.” Mother hugs son and fusses for him to go back to studying so she can complete the cooking, and prays silently that this will be the time he passes.