Whenever I ask elementary school students to tell me what they really think about standardized tests and to tell me what they think will happen if they don't do well on the test, their responses are so shocking that I often have a hard time figuring out which misconceptions to address first. Kids tell me that if they fail the test, their school will be shut down, their teachers will be fired, and it will go on their permanent record. No matter how much I try to correct these misconceptions, my voice is no match for the constant misinformation being fed to children, especially third-graders taking the high-stakes tests for the first time.
I decided to create a short video that corrected several misconceptions about standardized tests, taking the theme of "This Test Does Not Define You." The script for the video, written as a poem, originally hit me like a pile of bricks a few months ago. It practically wrote itself. It was originally a 10-minute slam poem that I revised and edited down to about 6 minutes. I used a variety of software and video editing applications to bring the words to life on a very low budget since I used personal funds to make it.
The video does not take a stance either for or against testing. Instead, it simply aims to remind students that as much as they need to pour their hearts into these tests and do their best, the tests don't define who they are. Taking a page from my own personal struggles with standardized testing in the fourth grade, I remind students that one's test scores don't stay with them for life, despite what some teachers and administrators threaten about permanent records. I also describe a simple writing exercise that kids can do to reduce test anxiety. The activity is research-based and more information can be found in this earlier blog post.
It was my hope to release this video in April, but I kept doing minor tweaks to it and it was delayed. If the test has already been administered in your school or district, I believe the video is still very relevant because kids still have some very real fears about testing and the message is one they need to carry with them throughout their schooling. It is important to break the video down at times and discuss the lessons (after playing it through once uninterrupted). For this reason, I have included captions. The video can be viewed at 1080p HD in full screen, looks great on a projector, and is completely ad-free so you don't get annoying car commercials popping up all over your screen when showing the video to young children.
I really hope you enjoy it, and if you have any thoughts or have used it in your classrooms or with your own children, please take a moment to comment on it, either here or under the YouTube video itself. Please click the thumbs up on the video if you enjoy it and share it widely.
Kumar R. Sathy