It all started back in elementary school: the dreaded standardized testing and reporting (or “STAR testing” as it was presented to us in second grade as some ill-formed euphemism to detract us all from what it really was). Student councils, faculties and principals would rally the youth and get everyone EXCITED about taking this test. We were all told how important they were but that it didn’t effect our grades in class. That in itself never made sense to me. It’s a huge test that’s extremely important to your life, but you can’t study for it, it doesn’t effect your grades, performance as a student or standing in your level in elementary school.
So what the actual fuck is the point of it?
From 2nd grade all the way through 11th grade, every year around May we’re all supposed to gear up and get pumped over this painfully long and excruciating testing procedure that spans an ENTIRE week. A WEEK of testing. It’s supposed to be really great and fun and if you have a cool teacher she’ll bring you candy to “get your brain moving” and it’s the coolest thing in the world because a) you get to skip your regularly scheduled curriculum and b) you get candy at 8:30 in the morning from your teacher.
It doesn’t become crystal clear until halfway through high school that these STAR tests are a total, complete and utter crock of shit. The California Department of Education Website reads, “Each spring, students in grades two through eleven take a STAR test. The STAR Program looks at how well schools and students are performing.” NOTICE, won’t you, that the word “SCHOOL” comes before “STUDENTS”. The STAR test is really just a way to see if schools have their shit together. It’s not about the kids. And if I learned anything from that awful Cameron Diaz movie Bad Teacher it’s that the only thing teachers take out of it is a competition between themselves resulting in a bonus from their school t0 the teacher whose class gets the highest scores.
When 11th grade roles around, and you bubble in your last god damned bubble on that stupid test booklet, it’s like Christmas has come early and you can finally take a sigh of relief and rejoice in the fact that you’re DONE with standardized tests forever.
Until, WAIT A SECOND, BEFORE YOU START CELEBRATING TOO HARD, then comes college applications and the requirement of the SAT test to even apply. Another fucking standardized test. After nine years of standardized testing in elementary school through high school, it became clear to my parents and I that I did not excel at test-taking. My grades were wonderful but my STAR test scores were less than desirable (which should really explain a lot, with that information alone). After realizing that rejection letters from America’s colleges were imminent and inevitable, I opted for the ACT test, which I learned was for teens like me: college bound, book smart, (street smart, incredibly beautiful, really funny, talented, a joy to be around, fashionable) but not the best test takers. I scored in the 68th percentile. Whoops.
I was right about those rejection letters and headed for community colleges where I took more placement tests, found my way in, decided I wanted to be a journalist with a journalism degree, took a lot of general education courses, transfered to San Diego State and learned BOOM! another test.
This one, unbeknownst to me at the time, would be my biggest, and greatest, challenge. It would, again, unbeknownst to me, cause me to question my schooling, my brains, my life choices and most importantly, my sanity. During transfer orientation, I was clued in on the wonderful and beautiful Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation (or GSP for short) test. The San Diego State University testing office explains, “The Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation (GSP) test is a way of determining whether or not students in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University (SDSU) have sufficient command of English to indicate probable success in the curricula and in related careers.”
This test is bullshit for the following reasons:
- Passing this test constitutes a score of 80 or higher.
- You get three chances to pass this test, and if you don’t pass by the third attempt, you have to change your major completely (and if you’re anything like me, CHANGE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE).
- The test hasn’t been updated since the 1970s and it has an 80% fail rate for the first try. THAT’S A BIG 8-0.
Being the ever-eternal-optimist I am, I thought to myself, “NO PROBLEM! I got this!” What I failed to realize at the time was when the last time I was actually taught the fundamentals of grammar, spelling and punctuation was. Thinking back on it, I’m fairly certain I haven’t looked at a grammar book since 5th grade. The thing about the GSP is that it is another standardized test that determines whether I’m a good student or not. Not only is it extremely meticulous, the GSP is like the cattiest bitch I’ve ever come across. It’s tedious, it’s annoying and it’s a pain in the ass. When you ask around, everyone either took the prep course or got a private tutor. If the prep course falls in a time when you’re already in class, you do the next best thing and hire the best tutor around. She’s someone you’ve heard from numerous people that helps people pass on their first try. I got her, I paid her $300 for six one-hour sessions and I got a 78 on my first try. A mere two points away, I let it slide and not ruin my entire life. So, two weeks later, I took it again. And I got a 79.
Two points away the first time, one point away the second time.
So here I am, an hour and a half after viewing my test scores, completely brain dead because this is the beginning of the end of my college career and finally, it feels as if there is a real chance I won’t pass this test, and will have to, in turn, change my major (and my life).
NEWSLFASH: WRITING IS THE ONLY THING I’M GOOD AT.
And I know, this test does NOT mean I’m not a good writer. It in no way, shape, or form has any reflection on my abilities as a writer (duh, you already knew that since you’re reading this and enjoying the shit out of it) but it WILL effect my chances of getting a journalism degree. That’s the most frustrating part.
That brings me to my point, which is that through the entirety of most students’ careers, from kindergarten to infinity and beyond, learning ability and testing have been lumped into the same category. When is the school system and the government going to learn that just because someone doesn’t test well doesn’t mean they aren’t smart or they don’t learn anything in school.
I am so sick of being judged on my ability as a student, a journalist, a writer, a human being, because I got a bad grade on a test. Acti0ns speak louder than words in all other areas of life, so why the fuck can’t it be applied to other areas?
Standardized testing is an inaccurate and unfair representation of the capabilities of the American student and I am sick of being a victim.
Time to start Googling clown colleges, for real.