Notes of a Standardized Child

Last week working on a video presentation for a GATO grant and taking the Stanford 10 with our soon-to-be graduating Kindergarteners took us out of our daily routine administratively.

One morning as we were about to start our day, talks of the two experiences converge to meet at a defining point.  The topics:  What Tip Would You Give to Teachers Across America and The Standardized Test.

We gleaned 90seconds from our fifteen minute talk together:  In this video, Megan shared the story of one standardized tested child contemplating how to determine the number of apples on a tree.

During the test, Megan noticed that the child was perplexed on a question which seemingly appeared easy.  Following up, the student explained her thought process- on a real tree you wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking as some apples may be hidden behind the leaves.


Understanding the critical thinking tools a student uses to arrive at an answer provides just as much- if not more- information than the score he may receive from a test.

For example, the choices presented to the child might be:     S     L     T     F

The question presented:  A picture of a fish jumping above a flowing stream of water.  What is the beginning sound.

The answer provided:  S

Now, the teacher knows that the child has mastered beginning sounds and looks at the “wrong” answer puzzled.  Having a rapport with her student, she casually brings up the topic at lunch.  “Well,” Lucy explains,  “Since the fish was swimming upstream, it’s obviously a SALMON.”  And thus, her score will be negatively affected.

One Kindergarten boy, who recently welcomed a his new baby brother into the family, was presented this question.

Baby has milk.
The baby has his milk.

His mother’s heart warmed at his choice (B) – also the “wrong” answer for the standardized test, but certainly the right choice for their family.

The experience of taking the standardized test has been a wonderful experience at our school, providing not only an accounting for a child’s academic understanding, but also a glimpse at each child’s critical thinking skills.  Standardized Test results are only a small part of a larger picture.  When children are taught to arrive at the same answer- when teachers are rewarded by scores creating a standardized thought process- therein lies the danger.

*Edited post from March 2013 to include the following article on standardized tests-

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