Springtime brings an air of excitement and wonder to students at the Jackson Elementary School. Recess is typically a little warmer and longer, there’s more space to play after all the snow melts, and there are more exciting field trips and outdoor events for students of all ages. Unfortunately, springtime also brings on a soul-crushing series of statewide standardized tests for all students in grades 3-5. And on this particular Wednesday morning, a fifth grader named Abigail Williams was currently frozen with anxiety and self-doubt as she struggled to determine which bubble to fill in for question 5 on the multiple choice reading comprehension session.
“I know it can’t be A) because that’s just obviously, like, SO wrong. I mean, even my sister who’s in second grade would know that,” she said as she erased a stray mark she had mistakenly made in the bubble. “And I guess it could be B) or C) cause they both kind of express the main character’s feelings. It’s just, like SO hard to choose between them. So now I’m thinking it must be D) which says “Both B) and C).” She sighed. “But seriously, this crap shouldn’t be this hard for me. I mean, I read at a tenth grade level, I’ve gotten perfect scores on my report card every semester since Kindergarten, and I just passed my private middle school test and interview with flying colors. UGH.”
As Williams started to shade in the D) bubble with an intensity and ferocity she usually saves for swimming the 50 meter backstroke for her town’s swim team, where she proudly holds the record for fastest girl in her age group, she became plagued by sharp pangs of doubt and mistrust and immediately put down her pencil.
“The idiots who made this test are probably trying to trick us into thinking it’s both B) and C). They want us to choose D). Well, I’ve got news for you, test makers, I’m on to your little tricks and I won’t let one silly question fool me into running my perfect academic record. I’m going to Harvard just like my dad did, and I refuse to let a wrong answer on this dumb fifth grade test jinx me into getting A-Minuses now instead of straight A’s, ” Williams said with a self-righteous smirk as she thoroughly erased her previous answer and carefully shaded every last square millimeter of the previous bubble.
After re-reading the passage for the third time, Williams determined that the main character of the story was more “hopeful” than “optimistic,” and after quadruple-checking her answer, she handed her test to her teacher, Ms. Silverstein, with a smile that exuded perhaps a bit too much confidence and self-assuredness.
As Williams then took her seat and pulled out the latest 800 page novel she was in the middle of reading, she began to rethink her answer. “Dammit. The character was totally both hopeful and optimistic. Maybe they weren’t really trying to trick us after all.” She then asked Ms. Silverstein if she could have her test back to fix one of her answers but was met with a firm “No” from the especially stern, veteran fifth grade teacher of 13 years.
“I just hope that my new private middle school doesn’t see the results of this meaningless little public school test,” Williams muttered as she began worrying about how this one small question might impact her PSAT/SAT scores, her chance at being named a National Merit Scholar in 2021, and her dreams of running for president some time in the 2050’s.