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You are not “just a number”!

Posted by: Commissioner Deborah A. Gist on 8/21/2014

I have heard high school students who are concerned about test results proclaim: “I am more than just a number!"

My response is, “Of course you are!"

You are a scholar, and you have unique interests, gifts, and contributions to make to the world. You may be an artist, an athlete, a debater, a scientist. Perhaps you have a passion for writing, for math, for geography, for design, for history, or for languages. Whatever your passions, I imagine you have dreams of an exciting and challenging career in which you can thrive.

As educators, it’s our responsibility to prepare you for success – so that you can accomplish your dreams. You are more than a number—no doubt. Yet test results for the great majority of us reflect progress toward achieving some important foundational skills, and these are necessary to help you achieve your dreams. 

It isn’t enough to be strong in just one area even if it is your greatest interest. In today’s world, believe me – those with multiple talents will have multiple opportunities. Writers need to know math. (Can you imagine a sports writer who can’t calculate batting averages, let alone “wins above replacement”?) Engineers need to know how to write if they’re going to explain their plans and designs to their clients. Small-business owners need to be experts in their chosen field, they need  to read and engage with others to stay current in that field, they need to communicate effectively with clients and customers, and they need to manage their finances. Everyone will be better positioned for success when we can read and write, and no one wants to get ripped off when buying a car or using a credit card because of a lack of understanding of compounded interest. 

Whatever our attitude may be toward testing, test scores will continue to play a role in our lives – well beyond high school. Teachers in our public schools, for example, have earned their credentials, in part, through attaining a passing score on series of tests: for admission to college, for admission to competitive teacher-preparation programs, and finally for the certification that allows them to seek a teaching job in Rhode Island. Tests are frequently involved in determining your higher education acceptance and placement, and they are used in acceptance to and exit from many professional opportunities. 

Those tests do not tell us whether the teacher, lawyer, nurse, or plumber will be good or even great in her or his field, but testing is a way to ensure a foundational level of skill is held. While the primary use of test results in our schools is to improve your learning, testing also provides a similar assurance of foundational skill. We want you to be ready before you move on so that you are positioned for success. 

It’s true that you are not “just a number,” but it’s equally true that, in school, in college, and in careers: “Numbers matter.” 
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