The latest kerfuffle in Florida education has parents protesting that a local school board might fail third-graders who opt out of the Florida Standards Assessment test. But this debate avoids the most critical question: What are we testing in the first place?
The answer may seem obvious until one thinks about it. There are many tests in life. But school tests are very specific. These tests are basically multiple choice exams developed at great cost that must be completed in a specific amount of time. So what does this test actually test?
It tests the ability of young people to take multiple choice exams. Period.
Sudbury, on the other hand, IS the test – as it should be. A school should be the place where young people test themselves before they graduate and take on the full responsibility of adulthood and all that it entails. Centering education around multiple choice exams leaves young people woefully misguided and unprepared for the challenges they’ll face after graduation.
Young people don’t need multiple choice exams. Young people need the freedom to test themselves in an environment where they won’t be judged and labeled if they fail. Young people need the freedom to test themselves against reality. They need the freedom to test their developing self-image without having it distorted by test results.
At Sudbury young people are free to do all of these things. And that is why Sudbury IS the test. It’s a test that develops a young person into a responsible and capable adult who knows themselves. Like life itself, it’s a test you don’t realize you’re taking until you’re forced to confront it head-on through the penetrating responsibility of freedom.