Childhood Memories Friday: Standardized Tests

Childhood Memories Friday

It’s springtime, and if you’re a student, that often means standardized tests.

Standardized tests are a hot political topic today. My own kids take ISTEP and NWEA as elementary school kids, and then it’s on to ECA’s in some subjects in high school, and of course the SAT and ACT.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, our standardized testing in elementary school consisted of the “Iowa test,” and as far as I remember, that was it. It happened in the spring, and involved a test booklet where we filled in ovals with our answers.

I don’t remember these tests being all that stressful, as thankfully I’ve always been a pretty good test-taker. I do remember the mind-numbing boredom as the teacher read off the required instructional script, and as we took the practice test. I remember seeing the “turn the page” logo at the bottom of most pages, and of course the impossible-to-miss STOP. DO NOT TURN THE PAGE at the bottom of others. I guess it’s just human nature, but darn! I was so tempted to turn those pages, just a teeny bit, to see what was forbidden on the next page!

We were always instructed to bring along a book to occupy ourselves if we finished a test early. In third grade, I discovered “Little Women,” and was so excited to be reading such a big book. I finished the morning’s test quickly and began reading. Mrs. Baughman walked up to me and very sternly asked if I had hurried through the test just so I could read my book. I was stunned that she would accuse me of something so anti-establishment! Sure, I wanted to read, but I certainly would not have jeopardized my test score to do it!

Most of the test questions weren’t that hard, but occasionally there would be one I wasn’t sure of. For those, I’d often try faking out the test question writer, wondering what he/she was trying to get at, and testing out different answers based on the different theories. And of course, marking “none of the above” for two consecutive questions always made me nervous.

I never really minded “Iowa tests” week, since it was a change in the routine. There was usually not homework assigned while we were taking these tests, but since I was that rare child who actually craved homework, this wasn’t necessarily a plus to me.

In high school, I took the SAT once. It’s different now, with kids often taking it multiple times in an attempt to raise their score. Back in ’82 when I took it, most everyone took it once and only once, in the high school cafeteria. You didn’t study for it (at least I didn’t), and honestly I don’t remember a lot about it. The ACT was around at the time, but I didn’t take it; my recollection is that it was geared more toward kids going to college out-of-state.

Do you remember the standardized tests of your youth? Share a memory in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: Standardized Tests

  1. Back at good ‘ole Holland School, I pretty much remember NOTHING about testing. I would wager a bet that we just took a normal test at the end of learning something to see if we “got it” or didn’t. If I had test stress, it didn’t scar me.

  2. People took the ACT more for private schools like Wabash and DePauw. You little radical, you! Flying thru the Iowa Test to get to Jo! lol… Civil Disobedience!

  3. I don’t think anyone had thought of standardized testing in my school days. So much the better. We did have something like it in nursing school. Those tests were stressful, although I usually did well on them. I feel so sorry for kids nowadays, especially those who are not good students.

  4. I’ve got lots of memories of taking and giving tests. I think that going back to Iowa tests, which are the benchmark for reliable and valid evaluation, would improve today’s school’s greatly! I usually got good scores on end-of-year tests, but remember wondering if there were really kids that had scores below the 50th percentile. It seemed like everyone in our class was doing OK!

  5. P.S. You might think I didn’t do well on punctuation tests, but I really didn’t mean to put an apostrophe in “schools!”

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