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THIS IS A TEST - TO FIND OUT WHAT REALLY MATTERS IN LIFE

It was a busy week for me. I took four very difficult tests and will probably never learn how I did on any of them. I suppose that I'll have to live with this anxiety for the rest of my life. The alternative is to assume that tests are not important, or they would give me the results.

I have to admit that because I won't learn the results I wasn't particularly motivated when I took the tests and probably didn't do my best. I suppose I'm much like students who often take standardized tests, marking little circles with a soft lead pencil and never learning about the results of their efforts.I have to admit to a real lack of motivation on the first test. It was a "test ad" for a sewing machine in the newspaper. I don't know how the advertising people knew that I would take this test. I also wondered exactly how the test was scored. All I know is that while enjoying the newspaper I accidentally read the words "this is a test advertisement" as I skimmed the summer paper looking for actual writing hidden in there with the advertisements. The point is that I will never know the results of this test. Maybe I can assume I failed the test since I didn't buy a sewing machine. Why should I share personal information on a test if I know I won't learn the results? I admit I was not motivated to do my best on the test ad.

I really tried on the next test even though I probably won't learn how I did. The sign on the highway said "road test section." After all the trouble we have had in Utah with potholes on the highway, I was determined by a spirit of public service to do well on this test. The test was brief since I was close to the posted 55 mph. It was so brief as to cause me to wonder if it were a fair test.

I suppose that not all road tests are this easy. In Ephraim the test is not hitting a pothole that will swallow the car. Some have suggested that the final solution to the hole problem is to allow Division of Wildlife Resources to stock the biggest holes with rainbow trout and create beautiful fishing holes where big lunkers would rise to unique flies. This hole idea needs some more testing, however, so I can probably expect more road tests in the future.

Only one of the tests I took this week offered to give me any results. Even at that the results would be for everyone and not for me personally. As with many test givers, the Utah Department of Parks and Recreation was interested in knowing about all of us but not particularly interested in me as an individual. They sent me the test in the mail. It was a test to see which of our public facilities I had used in the past year and what recreational activities were important to me.

I really expect that, as with many school tests, the Legislature will see how I did. The results will be given to them along with a request for additional funding to help pay for all the things that all who took the test asked for.

The radio announcer did assure me that I had passed the one test. It was a test of the emergency broadcast system. The first frightening words almost caused me to change stations. "This is a test." The next words put the importance in context. "This is `only' a test." I have thought the same words many times while making designs with my special pencil on a machine scorable answer sheet. "This is only a test." It is even less painful when it is only a test whose results I will never see.

The student in my office said he felt the same way about tests. He had put off taking the college admissions test. He was on his way to a big 10 school to play football on a full scholarship, and putting off the admissions test didn't seem like such a problem.

When he finally took the test it was on the last possible test date. He had taken dozens of tests just like it and it was, as students say, "boring." He drew pictures, marked answers at random and daydreamed. He couldn't remember any other test really counting and assumed that he would never see the results. It was just a hoop required by the school who had offered him the good deal to play football.

The student said that "an old guy sitting by me said that I would be sorry. He said that this test really meant something." It did mean something; no big 10 school, no time for a retest.

Although this student must assume the responsibility for his behavior, he was inclined to blame the system with some criticism that may be well-taken. "The tests had never counted before. No one has ever told me how I did on a test like this before."

Test data we collect in school is collected through the good will of students who deserve to know the results. Most importantly, we should want them to know for their own benefit. We should also want to maintain their good will so that they will continue to be willing to share important and accurate information with us in the future.

I expect that I will continue to take tests of the emergency broadcast system because the announcer told me I passed. I may be more reluctant, however, with test ads and surveys but will continue to test road sections out of civic duty. Students will also continue to take tests if we use the test to help them by giving them back the information that they willingly shared.