Standardizing Creativity

File this one under asinine. Emphasis on the first syllable.

A friend of mine shared a project that her child’s school launched this year. It’s a school newspaper. I know that doesn’t seem like anything extraordinary, but this is a very special newspaper. Here is the announcement that was sent home to all the parents. I’ve blocked out the school name, even though this is so ill-conceived that a part of me wants to string them up and publicly flog whoever thought up the idea.

Mail AttachmentLet me let that sink in for a minute.

This school newspaper is open only to students who scored a 9 on the reading/language portion of the SAT.

Did I mention this is for second through fifth graders?

There isn’t another criteria here. One day. One exam. One test score. And then you are invited to join the newspaper! Bad testing day? Grandma died? Your sister’s wedding was the night before the test day? Sorry. Maybe next year. This newspaper is only for the “9’s.”

My friend’s husband laughed when he saw this. When he was in high school, he was wasn’t allowed to be on the newspaper for the exact same reason (though it was a different sort of standardized test). He graduated, went to college, and eventually started his own local paper in South Florida.

Good thing they kept him off the paper in High School. It would be pretty embarrassing if he was better than the 9’s back then.

Basing a child’s participation in a creative club on a section of a standardized test borders on cruelty. Its sole purpose is to be exclusionary. A way for parents to say, “My kid is in newspaper. Did yours get in?” There are so many different aspects to a newspaper that allow students who don’t – or can’t – perform well on tests to excel. The implication of a club of this sort is that only the high scorers are creative or funny, or, God help us, smart.


Of course, this is nothing new. Schools have been beating the standardized test drum for years, and scoring that 9 has become more crucial for schools and teachers than the students they purport to educate. This newspaper, couched under the guise of “enrichment” is really nothing more than a carrot to wave in front of parents. A way to say, “Look! We have an enrichment program for your special child!”

There has to be a standard measure. I get that. But there also has to be a limit to what that standard measures. Using it as the only criteria for a club ignores all the other important elements of a student that are so much more than a test score.



By ignoring those other elements, we are certainly creating a society of higher achievers. A country full of bright students who get by through educated guessing, expert bubble filling in, and canned, mediocre, trite writing guaranteed to knock the socks off an underpaid, tired, school teacher. All hail the high score!

Creative thinkers? Learners? Innovators?

Not so much.


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5 replies

  1. Well said Adina! as a mom of a current junior in HS i am so frustrated over the emphasis given to they Stupid Ass Test ( SAT) as i like to call it. We never see our daughter bc all she does is study for this crazy test, as if all the studying to keep her GPA up is not enough. wish we could have a more holistic approach !

    • I agree, though I also think there is a big difference between using Standardized exams for college and using them at the grade school level.

      Good luck with your daughter! I have a kid going through the same thing! 🙂

  2. Wait, you mean, one size fits all doesnt work?! Huh! No wonder these kids seem so upset with the lunch laws that only permit 850 calories at lunch. . .

  3. I remember in High School Ema had to contact the school and fight to get me into AP English because I didn’t score the necessary 650 on the English section of the SAT. I only got a 630. The first day the teacher tried to talk me into dropping the class and taking an easier course.

    Oh yeah, I got a 4 on the AP and aced the class.

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