My name is Danielle Mathes, and I am currently in my third year at Tusculum University studying English Education for grades 6-12. I am from Chuckey, TN, and my educational background comes from small, public school settings. I attended a K-8 elementary school, and I graduated from Chuckey-Doak High School. While in high school, I completed dual enrollment courses at Walters State Community College and then at Tusculum University, where I later began my current course of study following graduation.
My first experience with a standardized test occurred when I was in elementary school. I can remember at an early age (probably starting in first or second grade) taking the yearly Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) tests. I remember, even at that age, wanting to get a high score, and as I grew older and continued taking the tests each year the desire to earn high TCAP test scores is something that did not change. I wanted to make the adults in my life, my parents and teachers, proud, and I felt that being able to show them what I learned over the course of the school year through my TCAP scores was a sure way to do that.
I would say that those first experiences with standardized tests impacted how I saw education by making it seem as though test scores were the ultimate end result. I could tell by the way my teachers presented the TCAP and emphasized the importance of making our best effort that we were under pressure to demonstrate our knowledge through those tests, and that is something that stuck with me.
As a result, for much of my elementary education, I viewed education as a preparation for testing rather than as something that served a purpose of its own. I came to realize, as I got older, that testing is not the primary reason for being given an education, but because of my past experiences as well as the continued pressure to do well, my results on standardized tests were still important to me, whether it was the TCAP in elementary school or the ACT in high school. Standardized testing was placed in a prominent position in the way I viewed education.