Monday, February 27, 2017

Testing as a Measure of Future Success

This week students around Indianapolis and the entire state of Indiana are taking a test called ISTEP (Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress).  The stated purpose of the test is to measure student achievement in English, Math, Science and Social Studies.  Critics have stated that some schools focus too much on students passing this test than actually learning the material in each subject area.

One thing I have learned in my life is that test scores never really measured my ability to succeed.  I recall while in college one of my advisors was trying to give me some academic feedback.  He dutifully pulled out my academic record and looked at my Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores from high school.  It was as though those scores represented all that I was in life.  I remember thinking, “does he really think my SAT scores define me as a human being?”

Then as I was preparing for a career after college I encountered another “test” measurement.  To gain permanent entry into professional and administrative jobs in the Federal  sector, applicants had to pass the Professional and Administrative  Career Examination (PACE) test.  As a college junior I took the test but did not gain a passing score.  Shortly after that, the test was found to be culturally/racially biased and was abolished.  The test questions were designed to fit the experiences of European Americans.  As a result more European Americans passed the test than minorities.  Once the PACE test was abolished the final hurdle to my starting a career in Human Resources (HR) in the federal government was eliminated.

Once the test that would have kept me out of the federal system was abolished, it was then up to me to perform.  I took advantage of the opportunity, applied myself on the job, learned my trade, sought challenges and quickly moved up via a series of promotions.  During those early years I was often the only black male in the office.  I rarely encountered role models either in HR or other occupations whom I could look to for guidance or support.  In terms of human help, I was on my own.  I moved up in specialist positions to supervisory positions.  Again, I was the only black male in HR in a supervisory position.  I moved into a key HR managerial position that managed one part of a 20,000 person federal agency’s human resources program.

I then yearned to move further up the management chain but encountered the “glass ceiling” where black males were not given the opportunity to move into key positions.  So, I left that agency and moved to a position in another agency where I was the Director of Human Resources a position I wasn’t allowed to have in my prior agency.  It was from my new agency that I retired at age 55 after working 35 years for the federal government.

If the PACE test had remained in place, I would have never had the opportunity to have the successful career that I had.  If I believed that my SAT score represented all I could be in life, I may not have sought the challenges I did in life.  But, I understood that man made tests do not measure my desire, my will to achieve, nor represent what God had in mind for me.  Test scores are just the result of how a person deals with a human made system of questions.  What makes those questions the most important ones that someone should be judged by?  Tests are designed to weed out people not to identify who is the best.  Tests are arbitrary instruments used for the purpose of exclusion.
To those Indiana students taking the tests I would say, do the best that you can.  But, don’t let the results of the test label you into a specific category for your entire life.  If you do well, great!  If you don’t do well still pursue your goals and keep trying to get better.  Life does not end just because you don’t get an appropriate test score.  I can vouch for that through my experiences.  I am retired and living a non stressed life with financial stability.  In whatever you do apply yourself and let your actions, not test scores speak for you

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