Ah, Spring. Flowers are blooming. Daylight lingers a little longer. Summer vacations are in sight. And (sigh), end-of-the-year testing is upon us.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree that tests can have their benefits.
A weekly spelling test to give children a chance to prove they’ve memorized must-have skills. A math exam gives students a chance to prove they’ve mastered important concepts.
But when a test score becomes a way to measure a student’s intelligence (or worse, their value), we’re the ones failing.
First things first, test scores do not equal intelligence levels. We all know brilliant people who are not great test takers. We can go down the list from historical geniuses like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, to modern-day brilliant minds like Steve Jobs and Steven Spielberg.
The common factor of these people is that they were not top performers in school and like many others. They were deemed failures early in life. I think we can all agree that despite their poor academic performance, they have significantly improved our world as we know it. The list of high achievers like these is endless. The point is – test scores do not equal intelligence levels.
I’ll take it a step further and argue that good grades are not every intelligent person’s goal. For the rebellious type, the last thing they want to do is what everyone else is striving for. What value are high test scores if the end goal isn’t what they are after? Awards, recognition, and others’ approval are meaningless to those who march to the beat of their own drum. In fact, it is often these individuals who think outside of the box who challenge the status quo and are bold enough to make a lasting impact. Elon Musk, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein – and maybe our own children – come to mind.
So how can we prepare our children for tests without stressing them out or worse, squelching their self-confidence? I think the answer lies in how we help them view tests.
Whether it’s memorizing sight words in kindergarten or their 3rd-grade end-of-the-year standardized test, let’s remind them of these 5 truths about test scores:
- Truth #1 – The purpose of the test is to show us what you have mastered, and also what you may need to practice more.
The truth is, we ALL have stuff we’re still practicing. This realization can mean everything to your child. It’s the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset (Check out the book “Mindset” for a deep dive into this critical subject.) The bottom line, just because they aren’t good at something now, doesn’t mean they can’t learn it and change. (The same goes for us too, mamas.)
- Truth #2 – I’m excited to see all that you HAVE learned so far.
Focus on and celebrate what they have mastered. For example, that 70% score means they got 70% RIGHT – not that they are 30% away from a perfect score. (And all the recovering perfectionists reading this said, Amen!) Take your celebrations up a notch too. I’m a huge believer in short-term rewards to celebrate achievements at all levels. Give them plenty of praise (and maybe an afternoon froyo treat) to show them that you’re proud of what they’ve learned.
- Truth #3 – What is important to me is that you do your best.
Excellence is always the goal. Perfection is not. It’s no secret that stress and anxiety among students are at an all-time high. It shouldn’t be this way. We can teach our children the difference between doing their best and eliminating their fear of failure, and it can help take off any stress before they face the test.
- Truth #4 – The way you learn is so unique and the test isn’t likely going to measure that, but I know you better than that.
This point really hits home for me, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. As a homeschooling mom of five, it’s no mystery that each child’s learning style is as different as their personality. Our biggest goal should be to applaud their uniqueness and make sure they know they’re seen and celebrated as themselves – not as a test standard.
Speaking of standards, the standardized testing system has become somewhat controversial in the state of Georgia. For those interested in joining conversations about Georgia’s Milestones tests (among others) and the options we have, I recommend checking out the Facebook Group, “Opt Out Georgia.”
- Truth #5 – You are SO much more than your test score.
At the end of the day, tests will come and go, and scoring methods will change, but our child’s self-image will impact them for life. How they see themselves and believe in their abilities can either elevate or limit their long-term success.
As parents, we are the first and final voice for our children, especially when it comes to building their self-image. Whether it’s in the classroom or the dining room, we must make the most of every opportunity to help them learn the most important lesson – the only score that really matters is how they see themselves.