Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Are Teens Failing to Learn Life Skills?

Below is an actual employment test administered to local applicants, sadly nearly all teens fail to pass this test.  This should be alarming to most parents.  What are our students missing from our school curriculum, and their real life experience that allows this to happen?

Certainly students today learn things that their parents just didn’t hear about years ago like, global warming, diversity, sexual orientation, and bullying.  Students today are far more likely to work in groups and this may develop an understanding of group dynamics that past generations learned outside of the classroom.

Is our system working?  Are students today missing something about self reliance or personal responsibility and allowing others in their group to carry the load as they coast?  Do we coddle students and thereby deny them a sense of the real world with personal responsibilities and consequences?

Take a close look at this very basic employment test and ask yourself if it is too much to expect a high school senior to be able to pass this test.  It can not be stressed enough this is a real test and nearly all local teens are failing it when applying for a job application.


Basic Employment Test

Please read and answer each of the five (5) questions below to the best of your ability.

1.  Mary is baking cookies, the recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups of nuts and 3/8 teaspoons of vanilla.  Mary has decided to mix three batches of cookies in one big pot.

Fill in the blanks in the statements below based on the above information

Mary will need _____________cups of nuts.

Mary will need how much vanilla? __________________.

2.  Draw a line 1/4” high between the stars *                *

3. Draw a line 1” high between these brackets   [          ]

4.  What is 1/2 of 3/8?  _____________

5.  If you are working at a cash register and the sale amount is $1.59 and the buyer gives you a five dollar bill how many if any of the amounts below do you give the customer when giving back the change?

Pennies ______ Nickels _______ Dimes _______Quarters________ Dollars________.


That is it five easy questions and here are the answers:

Question 1 – 3 ¾ cups of nuts, 1 1/8 teaspoons of vanilla

Question 2 and 3 are two lines one should be ¼” and the other 1”  the real test here is not the exact length but rather the relationship the first should be about one quarter as long as the second.

Question 4 – 3/16

Question 5 – one penny, one nickel, one dime, one quarter and three single dollars

Most teen applicants will not get three correct on this test with questions 1, 4 and 5 being the most often incorrect.  The actual results lead the employer to the conclusion that most teens can not count change by the time they are old enough to apply for a job.  It is a sad conclusion, but it is a fact.

Today on a local blog questions were being asked about thumb printing students as part of the cafeteria experience.  Yes it is part of the $40,000+ system purchased by Coventry schools to eliminate cash from the real life experience of buying lunch.  The system does of course protect students from the real world and the harsh reality of having to handle money.  In fact one might say it prepares and educates them on how to use a debit card.  Was it a wise investment in educational spending?  Was it a priority over books in what was described as a barebones budget?

The test above is a real world account of just one aspect of what is happening and the results from a field application of the teen educational experience.  Education is more than theory, more than tests; it is preparation for real world experience.  Computers, field trips, and power point presentations are all worthwhile but none should eliminate basic education.

The basic foundations of learning and the ability to apply knowledge should be a prime goal in any educational curriculum.  It is sad that so many students today are failing to meet that goal.  It’s sad that after looking at results from teens taking the above test the first thought that comes to mind is: Are you smarter than a fifth grader?


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