The Myth of Raising Scores in Standardized Tests

It is no secret that the prime example which proponents use in the argument to raise scores via standardized tests is China. Upon the first results of international test scores released that included China (see the article here), the New York Times touted the communist country’s “stunning” results that were ahead of the pack.

With this information coming from the New York Times it should be no surprise that these results are seen in a favorable light. What is inexcusable is what the article leaves out which are the mitigating factors that contribute to the high scores.

Persons who are more than happy to jump on the “American kids are stupid” train also have a predisposition to ignore factors (and too willingly accept whatever the latest craze in education may be) but for those willing to argue against this mindset, here are the “forgotten” facts.

It is Illegal to Have More than One Child in China

What does this mean and what does it have to do with test scores? It means that for every child enrolled in the school system there is at least two or three at home who are denied an education. These kids are sent to work in a labor-oriented vocation (agriculture or manufacturing pirated products) that does not require an education. To use an analogy, I teach martial arts. Teaching in those conditions would be the equivalent of removing all of the students who do not have a black belt and thus lowering the number of students enrolled in the program. The level of skills of those left in the program would skyrocket (since the focus would be on them) and everyone would have a black belt! Education for a select few.

Too bad for everyone else.

Lack of Creativity

Those privileged enough to enter the educational system in China suffer from a sever lack of creativity and ingenuity according to Yong Zhao, a Michigan State professor born and raised in China. His book, “Catching Up or Leading the Way” rails on America’s obsession with standardized testing while 44 percent of Chinese executives are not able to find the talent needed to compete worldwide. Zhao cautions Americans not to “throw out our DNA” in a stunning article that can be found here.

As I alluded in a previous post with respect to this subject, ingenuity and creativity can be found in abundance in America where application is still taught unlike China whose teaching style is reflected in facts and meaningless figures.

Our goal should not be to train our children to be great test-takers. It should be to think critically and creatively. According to an article in The Globalist (seen here), there is a call for a reforming of the school system….in China. It seems that China is just now beginning to realize that their schools are lacking in creativity and are crying for their schools to become more like America…

Oh the irony.

With respect to actual unemployment figures, China’s true numbers cannot be measured since children who are ousted from the educational system are put into the labor workforce and are not counted into the system. Migrant workers add to the unreliability of figures provided by Labor statistics. There is simply no way to tell how many children are being left out of the chance to obtain an education since according to the law they don’t exist.

In reference to the aforementioned difference in teaching style, according to China Insight (here), personal expression is discouraged as is classroom participation. Information is relayed from teacher to student and the student is expected to quietly absorb it. Just the facts! In all fairness, I will say that I do like the emphasis on respect. There is, however, a fine line between respect and censorship of ideas.

Chinese children spend an average of 8 hours a day in class and their entrance into college is solely based on what score they get on their last assessment exam (talk about pressure!). Children who are exhausted and overly pressured cannot apply what they’ve learned. Try it sometime.

Here is a list of things invented by “lagging” American children:

The Steam Engine

The Locomotive

The Telephone

The Automobile







The Airplane

Radio Astronomy


Polio Vaccine

Integrated Circuit


Artificial Heart

Optic Fiber

The Space Shuttle



The Internet

The iPod, iPhone, iPad and now…AppleTV.

Here’s a list of things invented in China.





Grain Storage

Horse Harness

All of these were invented before the end of the 19th century.

Please understand that I do love the Chinese people so I am absolutely not trying to vilify them. When I say I love them I mean it. Because of the inherent desire for freedom that all men and women share (whether realized or not) I’m sure that there are children this very moment working in their fields that are starving for the same opportunities as their firstborn sibling or for that matter, the average American. If only we could appreciate what we have.

My heart goes out to those forgotten children.

What I do take issue with is that the creativity and innovation that is embedded in the DNA of every American child could be subject to a teaching method that results in stifled thought and censorship in expression and innovation. That individualism is suppressed and the freedom to create something that has never been created before be lost in a sea of test scores. That the philosophies of a foreign country would in time come to dominate the mindsets of our children and an “invasion” of our children’s hearts and soil would take place right underneath our very noses one step at a time.

We seem to be so eager to surrender and denigrate ourselves, our country and our children when the solution easily lies in the restoration of our families and self-reliance and responsibility, in apprenticeships that teach our young people a good work ethic and in creativity that is permitted to thrive. I personally grow tired of hearing that our children are stupid (or that they’re not up to par) and that our teachers need to sacrifice their families so that they can be like the Chinese or Finnish. Teaching is a calling that can only be answered by the truly called. I dare anyone who is not called to teach to do it. You won’t last very long and if you do, you’re not a very good one and you should be stripped of tenure. As far as the comparison game goes, I don’t know about you but I find great offense in telling my child, “I wish you were more like Coco the Mindless Robot. She makes better grades”. I’d rather just help her with her math homework and tell her she can do better because she is capable of it. Do I believe in measuring our kids’ progress?

Of course! Let’s just keep it in the context of exceptionalism and not comparative.

I would tell her there is nothing that she can’t accomplish if she works hard.

Chat soon!


Leonardo Ramirez is an author of prose fiction and graphic novels in the genres of Young Adult and Children’s Books.

For more information please visit

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “The Myth of Raising Scores in Standardized Tests

  1. Loghry

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this blog. I really hope to see the same high-grade content from you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my very own site now 😉

  2. Preeti

    YES: Our schools and our beovled Museum (thank you, Cindy!) are essential resources.AND: institutions cannot do it alone. Our lives must also be filled with people living creatively.Young people seek creative role models. Each of us must ask: Am I a creative role model? What to do? Get thee to the Museum. And buy a copy of The Artist’s Way and get to work.

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