Just hearing the words “standardized tests” makes me want to vomit. I HATED them when I was in public school. I remember they were always given at the beginning of the year and were always the same question: “should students wear seatbelts onaschool bus? Why or why not?” It was awful. There were probably about two more reoccuring prompts throughout the years, but the seatbelt came up more then once.

Saying this, when I read Gardner, I was interested in what she had to say. I agree with her that these tests are useless and do not seem to help kids because “Any sense of audience is left for the students to discover (or, more accurately, completely invent). There’s no feedback and no discussion of the grading criteria” (Gardner, 2008, p.67) . I remember always wondering who my audience was and having to make up my own audience. That wasn’t that bad, but I was scared it wasn’t what my grader would want. There are so many unanswered questions when it comes to standardized writing tests. It seems as if correct form gets more points in these tests then critical thinking, and Gardner says this as well. That does not help students because any other form of writing they do is based on both, but more for critical thinking; therefore, when they write for these tests, all of their writing “morals” go out the window.

As a teacher, however, you have to practice for these tests. As much as you might hate them, it plays a part in if the students pass the grade or not. Gardner knows this, and throws in her ideas on how to help students get something out of it. First and foremost, “Learning to read the writing prompts on these tests is essential to success” (Gardner, 2008, p. 69). If the students don’t, they will not be writing in a way that the graders want. Next, Gardner gives ideas on how to help the students practice. She says the first time you teach it, do NOT time the first test. This way, the students can do all the correct writing steps and look over their work so they know how to respond when it comes time for the actual timed test. She also says gives a variety of timed writing. This is smart because some timed tests might be asking for a journal entry instead of an essay, so if students have practice in all types, they will feel prepared.

I wish I had this advice from one of Gardner’s students when I was writing these tests in schools: “Close eyes and refocus when distracted” (Gardner, 2008, p. 73). I was so nervous I would run out of time, I never stopped to relax. If I had, I would have most likely written a better response.

Unlike Gardner’s broad (but helpful) ideas of lessons, Dixon has more narrow lessons. The two lessons I liked the most were lessons 65 and 66 on pages 185 and 188 because they dealt with incorporating college writing in to the lesson. I strongly believe in teaching students how to write for college because colleges expect more then high schools, and these lessons help the student see what a college would be looking for on an essay exam. Lesson 65 actually takes Regent’s essay exam and the students are to practice writing for it.

The one lesson I did not like was lesson 63 on page 181 simply because when I read it, I felt like the students are writing a literary analysis paper, but with no time to write a good one. I do not find it like standardized tests for the fact that those tests give you prompts and you are to respond and most are opinionated. Sure, some of them have quotes from famous works and the students are to respond to those, but this lesson is having the students find the quotes and write a timed paper. What I am saying is that the papers will not be good papers because they have no time to think about the whole work as a whole, and this lesson is based like a literary analysis paper. I also do not like this lesson because it is about Shakespeare and this will make Shakespeare more intimidating than he already is.