What Do Students Think About Standardized Testing? A College Freshman Plans to Find Out

"Listen" will document the emotional toll testing takes on students.

There's plenty of debate among adults about standardized testing, but what do students think about it? 18-year-old University of Missouri-Columbia freshman Ankur Singh has decided to take the spring semester off from school in order to find out. He plans to make a documentary film, tentatively titled Listen based on what students tell him.

Singh, who is a journalism major, writes on his blog that making the documentary isn't a "school project or an assignment I was given by some production company." He's been thinking about the impact of our testing culture on students since his junior year when he was "enrolled in an English class taught by the best teacher I ever had."

The teacher, says Singh, "realized that most of his students were not going to be writing essays about Alexander Pope poems in their professional careers, so instead of focusing on memorizing the content of the literature, he focused on developing our critical thinking skills." As a result, Singh and his classmates were pushed to analyze literature and were allowed "to form our own ideas and argue them well." The class "was the only class I’ve ever taken where the lessons I learned will carry with me for the rest of my life, and after completion I felt 10 times smarter," says Singh.

In contrast, during his senior year of high school, Singh enrolled in AP English and hoped he'd further hone the writing and critical thinking skills he'd developed the year before. But, he quickly found out that the entire purpose of AP English "was to prepare for the AP Exam in May and to get ready for college." What did that look like? "Instead of analyzing themes or characters," says Singh, "our teacher would give us questions which we would have to write essays about in a 50 minute class period similar to what we would find on the AP Exam and in college classes." He grew frustrated with the test prep and longed for "genuine learning."

The same thing happened in Singh's AP French class, and when his teacher administered a pilot of the new AP French Exam, Singh's frustration boiled over. "I didn’t do it," he says. "Instead I wrote a very angry letter to the College Board in the margin of the answer sheet expressing my frustration with the way they have interfered with my education."

He ended up being called to the school counselor's office and had a conversation with the counselor and his French teacher where he detailed his concerns and how he felt "like school is holding me back from reaching my true potential." That's when Singh found out that his teacher was frustrated as well and would rather have the students "watch French films or travel to a French bakery than to sit and do test prep.

"And then my French teacher said something that I won't forget for a long time," says Singh. "'Maybe if the students themselves spoke out against it, it could all change.'"

Singh plans to travel across the country from January-May 2012 filming students from diverse backgrounds and schools so they can tell their stories. He hopes to avoid the politics of the standardized testing debate and simply "capture the emotional toll" on the No Child Left Behind generation.

Singh already has all the equipment he needs but he has a Kickstarter to help fund his travel expenses—he only has until December 14 to reach his funding goal of $2,000. (As of this writing, he's a little more than halfway there.) He's also looking for students to interview so if you know a student who feels particularly passionate about the issue, email him at

"I don't think enough people realize that behind every one of those test scores is a living, breathing child who has dreams and aspirations that may or may not align with what’s being measured on standardized tests," says Singh. "I also want to show people the talent us young people have that’s being suppressed by showcasing incredible things youth can do when we're at our best."

Click here to add funding Singh's Kickstarter to your GOOD "to-do" list.

Teacher supervising students taking standardized test image via Shutterstock

AFP News Agency / Twitter

A study out of Belgium found that smart people are much less likely to be bigoted. The same study also found that people who are bigoted are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence.

A horrifying story out of Germany is a perfect example of this truth on full display: an anti-Semite was so dumb the was unable to open a door at the temple he tried to attack.

On Wednesday, October 9, congregants gathered at a synagogue in Humboldtstrasse, Germany for a Yom Kippur service, and an anti-Semite armed with explosives and carrying a rifle attempted to barge in through the door.

Keep Reading Show less
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less

One of the biggest obstacles to getting assault weapons banned in the United States is the amount of money they generate.

There were around 10 million guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2016 of which around 2 million were semiautomatic, assault-style weapons. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade association, the U.S. industry's total economic impact in 2016 alone was $51 billion.

In 2016, the NRA gave over $50 million to buy support from lawmakers. When one considers the tens of millions of dollars spent on commerce and corruption, it's no wonder gun control advocates have an uphill battle.

That, of course, assumes that money can control just about anyone in the equation. However, there are a few brave souls who actually value human life over profit.

Keep Reading Show less
via Reddit and NASA / Wikimedia Commons

Trees give us a unique glimpse into our past. An examination of tree rings can show us what the climate was like in a given year. Was it a wet winter? Were there hurricanes in the summer? Did a forest fire ravage the area?

An ancient tree in New Zealand is the first to provide evidence of the near reversal of the Earth's magnetic field over 41,000 years ago.

Over the past 83 million years there have been 183 magnetic pole reversals, a process that takes about 7,000 years to complete.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Pixabay

The final episode of "The Sopranos" made a lot of people angry because it ends with mob boss Tony Soprano and his family eating at an ice cream parlor while "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey plays in the background … and then, suddenly, the screen turns black.

Some thought the ending was a dirty trick, while others saw it as a stroke of brilliance. A popular theory is that Tony gets shot, but doesn't know it because, as his brother-in-law Bobby Baccala said, "You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right?"

So the show gives us all an idea of what it's like to die. We're here and then we're not.

Keep Reading Show less