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We are more than numbers

Have you ever thought about standardized tests? You probably have because they are one of the many admissions requirements to colleges and universities around the country.

Regardless if you are an undergraduate or a graduate student, there is a good chance that you were required to take a test to be admitted to the program you are currently taking.

As a College of Education graduate student, and a naturally curious person, I constantly find myself thinking about and questioning things, their history, meaning and purpose.

Coming from a different educational system — by the way, I am from Brazil — where the requirements for college admissions do not include standardized tests or school transcripts, it is inevitable to compare and contrast what I have experienced in my country and what I am learning about the United States’ educational system.

Thus, standardized tests have become an intriguing topic to me, and it is constantly mentioned in classroom debates fostered by my professors.

One of the things that I observe in such discussions is how we tend to naturalize things as if they have always been the way they are.

Personally, I consider that it is important to question establishments, comments and attitudes that tend to take things as if they were immutable and absolute truths.

Thus, I invite you to think about these questions: How long have these tests been around? Have they always existed?

Well, standardized tests have been around for a while.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test, commonly known as the SATs, have been applied to students who want to pursue an undergraduate program since the 1920s.

The Graduate Record Examination, in its turn, became a requirement in the 1930s.

Such tests were most frequently required in elite institutions, and the reason it became largely used was that standardized scores were a way to compare students’ scores nationally, predict graduation rates and they were also accessible to the public’s understanding.

But, have you ever thought if such tests serve any other purpose rather than their scores being used for admissions purposes?

Why are these tests stillaround? Who gains from these? (These tests are not cheap, as well as their prep courses, and textbooks).

Some scholars argue that such tests are part of a culture of measurement, where education has become objectified to be assessed and placed on a scale. Such culture overstresses numbers to tell students’ whole schooling story. That essentially means that you, your knowledge, your history and your abilities are reduced to numbers as if they could tell anyone, even the admissions committees, who you are.

The overemphasis on standardized tests lead to decontextualized learning because teachers are essentially teaching their students to take tests, limiting their possibilities to expand knowledge beyond what is expected from them on a test.

Moreover, it hinders their ability to connect what they have learned with real- world experiences.

Additionally, numbers have become a measure of success, and the overemphasis on rankings serves the purpose of rating performance, predicting success and preventing any failure.

The problem is that it seems that exhibiting numbers have become more important than what you have achieved in the process of education itself.

Scores are more valued than the whole person and its subjectivity.

In countries, such as Finland, the education system is centered in the whole-child is taken seriously.

Individuals are not ranked by their test scores, and their futures are not predicted by performance depicted in numbers.

Conversely, students are encouraged to develop critical thinking, to think for themselves, instead of being reproducers of the status quo.

Therefore, schools should enable students to become complete individuals, not fragmented through compartmentalized knowledge, encouraging them to become co-creators of their realities.

So, I would like to offer a piece of advice: Do not take things for granted believing that “it is what it is,” as if changes were not possible.

Do not be standardized, nor measured. You are more and can offer more than test scores show.

And for those in the education field: Let’s remember what education is all about.

We know our society values numbers, but let’s add a subjective value to it, considering the whole- person, evaluating our kids, youth and adult learners holistically.

We are more than numbers.

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