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  • Julian Talbot

The Real Purpose of Student Assessments

Let's talk about exams and grades. Those magical letters and percentages that hover over students like a relentless storm cloud. Conventional wisdom (read: the educational bureaucracy) tells us these numerical judgments are clear indicators of academic prowess and future success. But let's drop the façade, shall we? Grades are less about measuring your ability to thrive in the 'real world' and more about administrators’ love affair with spreadsheets.

Let's start with the obvious: the illusion of objectivity. Give a math problem or a fill-in-the-blank question; sure, grading is straightforward. But what about essays, art projects, or group work? Suddenly, your grade is at the mercy of subjective judgments faster than you can say "rubric." We're talking about teachers who may or may not like your font choice or are having a bad day because their coffee machine malfunctioned.

And what about those standardized tests? Ah, yes. Multiple-choice questions that can determine your destiny. Never mind that Albert Einstein flunked his university entrance exam or that Thomas Edison was told he was "too stupid to learn anything." They weren't good test-takers, and standardized tests are notoriously great at ignoring genius.

Did you know that the billionaire Founders of Microsoft, Facebook, Oracle, Uber, Whatsapp, and

plenty of millionaires are also college dropouts? And this isn't unusual. Approximately 1 in 8 billionaires on the 2018 ranking of the Forbes 400 wealthiest people in America was a college dropout.

Grades often encourage gaming the system, too. "Will this be on the test?" becomes the most critical question in class, eclipsing genuine interest or the thrill of discovery. Learning devolves into a quest for grade-points, not knowledge. Administrators get their neat little columns of data, but students get a warped sense of what learning should be.

Lastly, grades are a poor predictor of future success. Your straight-A report card won't tell employers if you can think creatively, work collaboratively, or adapt to change. What it does indicate? You're good at regurgitating information and have figured out the ancient art of "teaching to the test."

So, let's toast to the true purpose of grades: making life easier for administrators. They give us a neatly packaged illusion of fairness and objectivity, all while sweeping the messy, beautiful, unpredictable elements of human intelligence under the proverbial rug. But don't fret; in the grand narrative of your life, those grades will be but a footnote. Cheers!

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