Middle School Principal Raps about the High Stakes of Standardized Testing
Carl Perino ’92 urges parents to take the pressure off of children when it comes to standardized testing.
Principal to more than 1,140 school students at Carl W. Goetz Middle School in Jackson, N.J., Carl Perino ’92 is well aware of the stress and anxiety that students feel when adults push for academic excellence. “Whether it is well-meaning or not,” he says, “a lot of hard-driving parents put too much pressure on their children to do well academically and overlook the social-emotional importance of a student’s social skills and happiness.”
A science teacher first, and then a school administrator since 2005, Perino took that message to the open-mike TEDx Talk stage in Asbury Park, N.J., last May, when he performed his original rap against school standardized testing, Children Are Not Standardized. “I thought I had an important message that needed to be heard,” Perino says, “especially for parents.”
A principal for three years, Perino utilized rhymes as a “hook” to get more people to listen. He says his rap is meant for parents who constantly demand high grades and test scores from their child. “I believe students should hear, ‘go ahead, do your best,’” he says. “It is more important than having students throw-up from stress the night before tests. The grade is not as important as what is being learned in the classroom.”
A father to three children, ages 7 to 12, Perino is concerned that students perceive their worth by the A’s they receive. “A grade doesn’t determine whether or not they’re a good person,” he says.
“Instead of worrying about them making good grades, making friends and good choices deserve accolades. After all what makes up a more beautiful mind, than if it is open, curious and most importantly kind.”
Although he agrees that there is a need for benchmarks that measure students’ learning, he says the point is to lessen the pressure. “I’ve never seen students so stressed out,” Perino says. “I will always deal with parents who constantly demand their kids to excel,” he says, “but I believe it’s more important that students make good decisions and they feel good about coming to school.”
Perino, who raps about other subjects including school sports, social media, and drugs and alcohol, says testing will never make a child feel significant. “It’s a group effort – parents, teachers, guidance team – to make school a more positive learning experience,” he says. “Let’s shift the focus from the pressure of getting good grades to the good things like recognizing and rewarding efforts, making responsible decisions and encouraging good character,” he says.
A biology major at Albright, Perino received a master’s in biology from the University of Montana and a master’s in educational administration from Michigan State University. He and his wife, Tami, and their family, reside in Point Pleasant, N.J.
Although it can be difficult to determine how much parental pressure on children is healthy and when you should back off, Children Are Not Standardized pushes the boundaries of assumption in education. “Standardized test scores may make children think they’re not important or loved enough by parents unless they’re perfect,” Perino says. “It’s a standard to which few, if any, children can achieve. Scores are not as important as success outside the classroom.”
Enjoy Perino’s TEDx talk below: