Why Do We Have to Prove Ourselves Again?

To the people of Wisconsin,

We 9th grade students from La Follette H.S. have done some research and have a few things to say to you and a few things to ask you. By now you should know that Governor Tommy Thompson will probably be leaving for a new job in Washington D.C. But before he leaves he will already have done his damage to education in Wisconsin. You are probably asking yourself, “ What could that be?” Well it’s called the High School Graduation Test. This test is one of the many criteria, which determines whether or not we graduate from high school. The new HSGT test for the Class of 2004 requires us to take 4 major tests in order to graduate from high school. But we already take final exams for all our classes.

At La Follette H.S., under the 4 block system, we take final exams in October, January, March, and June ? four times per year. How much more of our learning time will be consumed by test taking? How much more pressure and stress is going to be placed on us? Think about your own children when you accept the State of Wisconsin adding four more tests every fall and spring of each student’s junior and senior year. Think about your tax dollars when you see the $6?10 million cost required just to create and grade fill the bubble tests.

Government officials say this test is meant to give more value to the high school diploma. Yes, this test may limit the number of kids who graduate, but what does that help? Students who pass this test are going to be the same students who are passing their classes! As for the ones who don’t pass it, they will lose a lot of self?esteem and will very likely say, “The heck with high school” and dropout as soon as they can.

“Standardized testing has swelled and mutated, like a creature in one of those old horror movies,” said by Alfie Kohn. So, the goal of having more students completing high school will be lost as the dropout rate goes up.

Will this test make high school graduates “smarter” as some suggest? That probably won’t work because a test doesn’t make you smarter. Learning in class and thinking for yourself makes you smarter, a test does not. This is a multiple choice based test, which means you’re not giving us the chance to think for ourself, but that is how we’ve been taught. In all the years of school we have been taught to think for ourselves, to know important facts and to recognize how to use them. We have learned how to read and think, but from the sample test questions I’ve seen, the test does not test that. If there are students who can not read at grade level, why don’t you spend $6?10 million teaching them to read instead of testing them over and over to prove they can’t read?

Recently, the UW Board of Regents Education Committee decided that all Wisconsin Public high school graduates would have to have taken the HSGT and pass it in order to be accepted at any of the UW campuses. These include students whose parents decided that learning is more important than testing 8 times a year and have opted out of the test. Many are probably the parents of very achieving students. All of those students will have already taken the ACT or SAT, met UW requirements and graduated in the top 15?  20% of their class! If the ACT or the SAT are worthy tests, then why can’t we just submit that score instead of taking the high school graduation test and wasting tax payer money? To ignore this option does not make any sense to me or many other clear thinking people. 

The money used for this test could be used for many other things: building more schools in over crowed areas; buying new desks and supplies for schools; giving more pay to the teachers because we all know they should get more for putting up with us. These are just a few of our ideas. There are lots of things you could use this money for that would make this state better then it already is. All you have to do is think about it. Our suggestions make a lot of sense. 

Clearly there are many unanswered questions from both students and parents, but the biggest one is “Why Do We Have To Prove Ourselves Again?” We work all year, studying hard, passing our classes and getting the ever increasing credit that we need to graduate. We take final exams 4 times a year, and now you want to make us prove, in still another way that we are worthy. We have already shown you that we know what we have learned and have done so in many ways. To many people that’s fair and that’s enough. Wisconsin high school students are already tops in the nation. It seems that it’s easy to sit in your big old desk and say, “Kids don’t know anything.” 

We suggest that you should not have exclusive control over our futures. We need a voice in our future. In a democracy, we learn to make our own choices and whether they’re good or bad, that’s up to us. So let us go through high school, learning, studying, proving ourselves, not being scared of this test. Let us live our teenage years in happiness. Let us be ourselves.

Your future,

Josh McDermott & Students in the class of 2004

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