It’s crunch time in schools right now, as many educators wait on results from their standardized tests. This got me to thinking; I find it fascinating and disturbing how much emphasis we place on paper/pencil evaluations in the school system when most job-related assessments are performance-based. I was one of those students for whom this misplaced emphasis caused huge challenges.

I never performed well on traditional assessments. My SAT and ACT scores were frightening, and I came close to not getting my graduate degree due to low GRE scores. I still feel a wave of anxiety and dread just thinking about having to read a passage and answer isolated questions.

Of course, the aspects of school in which I thrived (and tested well) were all novel and differentiated – speeches, projects, performances. Luckily, these experiences prepared me well for future success in my adult career. I feel fortunate I did not let traditional school assessments define my potential.

There is a huge focus on differentiating instruction in the school system, which I applaud. In fact, I try to model the concept in every staff development session I facilitate. However, until we differentiate the manner in which we test our students, we will continue to miss the mark in helping them reach their true potential.