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What is holding you back from being a


"Which of the following would best complete this statement?" Perhaps you had
an anxiety flashback to your own experiences with standardized tests just now.
Perhaps this question evoked fond memories of filling in tiny bubbles under
time constraints. I don't know you, and I wouldn't presume to speak on your
behalf, so let me just muse.

When confronted with such a question on a test, I met it with distain. This
author wasn't asking me what I deemed the "best" answer, or even to ponder what
context "best" refers to, and whether or not that merits an answer at all. It was
asking me what the designer of the test would consider "best."

I furrowed my brow and pictured the scholarly suit at Test Creation Central
that ponders up new ways to torture American youth. Then my thoughts give
way to my teacher reclining at his desk. I shouldn't be blaming the fat cats
that designed this test, but rather my high school chemistry teacher who decided
old published SAT II Chemistry exams would suffice as chapter tests for his

Very little of these questions concerned anything I could remember covering in
class, and I felt cheated out of the chance to prove I was learning in chemistry
class. I'm here every day! I pay attention! I do my homework! This isn't fair to
me! I wanted to scream at him.

The more I would try to swing my thinking back to the question in front of me,
the louder time ticked in my ears; it taunted me. The distain would get buried
by panic, and admitting I couldn't possibly know the answer to this improbable
hyperscenario, I ended up skipping the question. I felt dispirited, incapable, and

I have reflected on the ideas of constructivism, democracy, authenticity,
coherence, and postmodernity in designing curriculum. I have stewed over the
value of embedding these ideals into a classroom, and of challenging students
to take responsibility for their learning. I have mulled over my experiences in
public education, and got angry, vindicated, empowered to change. Not one of
these approaches to education advocate that children should demonstrate what
they learn in my classroom by a test created by someone else's standards,
someplace else.

I am hereby dissolving all feelings of inadequacy I have carried with me when it
comes to learning. I am a capable. I am worthy. My abilities cannot be
measured by a ScanTron. My knowledge will not be defined by the
CollegeBoard's definition of understanding. My high school classroom will
never see an old SAT II Practice Exam as the way to showcase their knowledge.
We will be building up communities of learners, not weighing them down with
self-doubt. Learners be liberated!