Apr 16

The Real Test

It’s been said that Florida only has two seasons: January and summer. While that’s mostly true, I’d add a third season, one which children and their parents here share with so many throughout the country. Yes, it’s the highly anticipated season of standardized test-taking. And if it were a movie, it could be categorized as a thriller, horror or comedy, depending on one’s experience.

A recent article about some powerful psychology around testing kids really hit home with me. It underlined the dramatic results of emphasizing effort over ability. In short, the control group who were told they did well because they were smart did worse on future tests and took less risks than those who were told they did well because they worked hard.

Surprised and shocked by this clear principle, I applied it to my own life. Had I passed the test? As an aspiring writer, had I too (like the subject 5th graders) been caught in a fundamental trap of believing that what I may be–or rather, all I may NOT be–is more important than what I do? Effort results in learning, which ultimately leads to success.

When my daughter’s teacher sent out a request for pencils, I penned these few short lines to remind the kids, and myself, of this simple truth. Feel free to share with your own students, citing my website if possible. Whether they’re facing a national benchmark such as the Stanford or Iowa achievement tests, or a state-customized version, like the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT) our public schools take here, my hope is that young test-takers everywhere might be encouraged just knowing that their hard work has already paid off.


Sharpen these tools like you’ve sharpened your mind,

And the answers you seek you’re sure to soon find.

For when you work hard and just do your best,

You’ve already passed life’s most challenging test.