Here comes the standardized testing monkey

John Oliver once again tackles an important subject with intelligence and humor. This time the target is standardized testing, something kids are apparently now subjected to literally every few weeks. As he points out, in theory it makes a great deal of sense, but in practice there’s far too much wrong with it.

I write, incidentally, as someone with a talent for taking standardized tests. In school I routinely scored in top few percentile in part because I understood how the tests were put together and in part because I expected to do well and therefore didn’t panic as many students do. (Oliver notes that test administrators are instructed on what to do if a student throws up on his or her test booklet.)

I came away from the experience with a real contempt for standardized multiple-choice testing. If my preformed attitude against standardized testing makes you question my judgment of it, let me point out that according to standardized testing I’m very likely smarter and better informed than you are. So there.

This is a longer-than-average clip but it’s worth your time. Also, it has multiple appearances by a dancing monkey.


A quick postscript: “The Hare and the Pineapple” is a story by the great children’s author Daniel Pinkwater (website), whose writing is almost without exception brilliant, entertaining, and weird. But I suspect it’s not really a very good choice for a reading comprehension test, because not everyone is going to get Pinkwater, especially on first exposure. Then again, I must admit I’m surprised and impressed that anyone working for a test-writing company has actually read any Pinkwater. It’s a little like coming home and discovering that your cat has done the laundry.

Update: As Daniel Pinkwater explains in a comment to this post (and no offense to anybody else, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more delighted by the identity of a commenter), he didn’t write what appears on the test. The testing company, Pearson, drastically altered the original. I didn’t think anything could lower my opinion of standardized testing companies, but by golly Pearson has managed it.

Meanwhile, to celebrate getting a blog comment from one of my favorite writers, I’m right now heading out to a nearby restaurant for a meal of potato gnocchi tossed with candied pepper bacon, sugar snap peas, red pepper, and onions. Topped with a light cream sauce, parmesan cheese and served with a side garden salad. I suspect Mr Pinkwater would approve.

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Here comes the standardized testing monkey — 1 Comment

  1. Only I didn’t write it! I wrote something vaguely like it as part of a novel, and sold rights requested by Pearson, the test-making company to be included in some kind of educational material they contemplated–a side-benefit of authoring. They then changed practically every word, making the piece even more incomprehensible than what I originally wrote. I heard from a lot of kids who were variously upset, bemused, or cynical and unsurprised by the quality of the test and the idiocy of the questions. Some also accused me of selling out, which I explained was exactly right.

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