Exams are an extremely important component
of American education. Students must take tests to demonstrate proficiency in a
subject area. Exams are also a primary means of determining who gets into
We educators begin testing students at
early ages. Those who perform well end up with an advantage in life. We place
them in advanced classes while in elementary school. There, they learn things
that can place them on the right path to academic success. Others, who perhaps
do not perform as well on our tests, can go in the opposite direction.
With so much riding on exams, it is only
fair for those of us in the teaching professions wonder if we can make testing
more student-friendly. We explore that issue, but first, let us consider how
the current emphasis on tests developed.
A Brief History of Modern Testing
Measuring aptitude became a national
concern during World War I. The Army wanted
to know the “intelligence” of its recruits. This knowledge would allow them to
place the soldiers in the right positions, they believed.
The use of intelligence tests continued
after World War II. A major reason was the growth of the military industrial
complex. During the war, the government invested heavily in the Manhattan
Project to create the Atomic Bomb. This weapon, though horrific, helped end the
war, saving many lives that would have been lost during the planned invasion of
the Japanese mainland.