How Bad IS Standardized Testing? AKA Understanding vs Skills

As I delve deeper into one-on-one tutoring of my own, as well as working in different classrooms, I run into common conundrums. How do we get kids to truly understand what they’re learning?

Standardized tests provide a measuring stick of sorts – they tell you what standards they’ll assess, and educators are theoretically responsible for making sure students can meet those standards. Not bad, in theory.

But the standards are often phrased in terms of understanding…how do you measure understanding? I can measure behaviors – can you match one thing to another, can you enumerate each step of a calculation, etc.

How do you measureĀ understanding? Is it applying skills (behaviors) you’ve learned to novel situations? Is it being able to articulate the process in words/writing? How do you measure something so complex?