There has been animated conversation on the blog about whether school tests are benign because they are similar to medical tests. They are in fact very dissimilar. The differences between standardized tests and medical tests are many.

One, the medical tests do not have multiple-choice answers. Doctors understand that the same results mean different things for different patients, depending on their age, weight, medical history, and other factors.

Two, your doctor (a human being) interprets the test results, relying on her/his experience and wisdom.

Three, in most cases, you get the test results within a few days, not months later.

Four, by the time the results of the standardized tests are reported, the student has a different teacher. The teacher is not allowed to review the questions to see what the student got wrong. Unlike the medical tests, which pinpoints specific problems, the standardized tests provide no diagnostic information. They are worthless to teachers and students.

Five, the purpose of the medical tests is to find a treatment to make you feel better; the purpose of the standardized education test is to rank you against other students, to grade your teacher, and to evaluate your school. Imagine a medical test that told you not how to get better, but how you compare to patients in other states, and whether your doctor should be fired and his practice should be closed.