Our story begins in the 20th century.
One day, the emperor asked for new standards. “Who can bring me standards which will tell me how much students learn, how much they know and how well the teachers are doing their job?” he asked. Experts from across the kingdom brought him all kinds of tests and recommended assigning papers and projects. The emperor was confused. “How will we know if every teacher is using the same criteria? Can we trust the judgment of teachers and principals? How will we compare different schools?”
One day a wise man arrived with a PhD in education and a stack of research. He offered the emperor a standardized test. “With this test you can check every student according to the same criteria, compare them and find out where the good and bad teachers are” he said. The emperor looked at the test and said “But I don’t see any measure of knowledge or understanding.” The wise man explained that these tests were written by experts in education following many years of research. The emperor, who didn’t want to appear ignorant, issued a new order. From now on all students and schools will be measured according to these tests. Principals instructed teachers that they must meet the standards set by the emperor. All educators studied the tests thoroughly in order to find out exactly what students needed to know. Everyone began to prepare for the big day. They memorized the necessary information, learned to read and follow instructions and practiced every type of question so that they would know how to answer each and every one properly.
The day arrived. The emperor sent inspectors to deliver the tests to every school in the kingdom. All of the students sat quietly, the teachers stood at attention, everyone knew exactly what they were expected to do. Suddenly one child got up and shouted “This test is useless!” The principal gave the teacher a stern look, and the teacher quickly quieted the child. But the child stood up again. “This test is useless!” he shouted again, “I understand all the material but some of these questions make no sense!” A child from another school shouted, “What’s the problem? We don’t need to study, we just need to figure out the system.” The teachers and principals looked again at the tests. They realized that the children were right. One teacher called out “We stopped all relevant and meaningful learning to prepare for these tests!” That teacher was immediately sent to an alternative school, and no one else dared to oppose the emperor.
The kingdom continues to hold standardized tests every year.