I heard a podcast one time that cited a survey of high school students. The one word they used most to describe school was "boring". I did a similar survey in my own district and the results were the same. I wasn't surprised, of course, but I haven't been able to forget that over the past year and a half. I'm always on the lookout for causes to the problem and things we can do to solve it.
For a contrasting picture, I was extremely impressed with the student engagement I saw during the animation project I did with the high school Mythology class. I was thinking about this a lot, how creative projects can result in so much life and passion in the classroom. The young minds are charged with possibilities and excitement.
I made the graphic below to put the two visions side by side. It was kind of funny (in a sense) when I first thought of the goal when taking a standardized test--get all the dots in the same place as the one answer key. And when completed it doesn't even have information on it that is meaningful to a human being. Just dots! Of course, we have writing portions on the tests, but we were informed recently that in Michigan that portion will also be scored by a computer, just like the dots. A lot remains be seen on that and more could be said, but for now...
I'm not against standardized tests. We need the data. When they get too much of the focus in schools, though, it's no wonder to me the classrooms have the life sucked out of them. On the other hand, a classroom full of excitement and possibilities also fosters learning. Those students get an enjoyable experience and they still can figure out where to put the dots.