June 21, 2013

The uncertainty faced by Johnathon Carrington, who was interviewed for the June 17 front-page article “College-bound D.C. grads pack hopes and fears,” is unfortunately all too common. Higher education is supposed to be a jarring experience for even the best-prepared entrant, but Mr. Carrington and countless other prospective college students are at the mercy of an education system that demands myriad standardized tests to ensure public schools are “accountable.”

The culture of testing is a travesty of modern education: Instead of guaranteeing students’ development, it simply turns them into instruments by which a school ensures its own survival. It is therefore unsurprising that those students are inadequately equipped to cope with the academic pressure of college. There is a fundamental mismatch between the academic values of many schools and those of college. One seeks to impart analytical curiosity, while the other hopes students limp through the next round of tests.

The effort to impose rigorous standards on our schools is hurting students. Governments need to give educators space to teach students how to think critically. Let principals ensure that students are ready for the next intellectual challenge rather than the next test.

Tom Abbasi, Washington