the guessing game.
by Kelly Monaghan
One of my classmates was one of the smartest people I know. He got A’s on everything, studied is butt off every day, and knew how to solve a math equation in his head in like 10 seconds. His ACT score was a 15. It doesn’t matter that he was a total genius at age 17. The test scores didn’t show his skills, so he couldn’t get into one of the major colleges. If colleges looked beyond ACT or SAT scores, they would see exceptionally bright kids that just aren’t good at guessing games.
Frederick J. Kelly made the multiple-choice test in 1914. It was an easy way to process students quickly when men were off at war and women working in factories resulted in fewer teachers. He never intended his idea to be so widespread, and near the end of his presidency at the University of Idaho he argued that there needed to be major changes to education, as in: change from standardized testing to integrated, problem based learning.
Standardized testing went into overdrive when in 2002 The “No Child Left Behind Act” was put in place. As a result of the act, all children in public schools are tested annually to see if their math and reading skills meet or exceed state standards. This apparently provides accountability for teachers and flexibility for how schools use government funds.
I don’t think standardized testing should be this way, at all.
They say testing allows school districts to be flexible in how they use federal education funds to improve student achievement. This can be a DISADVANTAGE to the kids. Some schools use those federal funds for things like sports and new gadgets rather than shoring up skill instruction. Does this mean they help the kids? Maybe not, especially if it’s a low-funded school. Often, the money is needed to fix up a run-down school. It doesn't always mean that they hire better teachers or put in place better programs to help the students.
Some kids cheat on standardized tests or flat out don't even complete them because they think they’re not smart enough to do well. Why do you think they feel this way? Because testing isn’t helping them; it's shuffling through hundreds of kids to find the "best" ones and excel them. Some classmates don’t get the help they need because the teacher doesn’t notice they're struggling. In high school, my classmates who didn’t understand would just stare blankly at their notes. If they asked the teacher a question and they still didn’t understand, they would just skip the question and not ask again for help. They wouldn’t attend after-school teacher help because they either had sports or clubs to attend, or they had given up all together.
As a senior, I sat in the freshman Physical Science class as a teacher assistant because I had a free period. One kid always acted out and (no surprise) got bad grades. The teacher and I agreed that before any test or quiz he would sit in the back with me and we would go over the skills or the difficulties he had. I found out quickly that he didn’t even know how to take notes! No one ever taught him how to. Once I showed him how to take proper notes and we went through the problems one-on-one, he started doing better. He even stopped acting out as much! Reason? He found that he could do well. He ended up passing Physical Science with a decent grade. Some schools don’t teach you how to take proper notes or study techniques at all, and without them, students end up getting discouraged. This is reflected in standardized test scores; people don’t know how to prepare for them.
When you do prepare for a standardized test, you realize that testing is more about memorizing than actually understanding. You have to memorize the equations/formulas, memorize the word functions, memorize how to read the question properly. A company came into my school to show us how to read the ACT questions. All the answers were found within intricate wording in the multiple-choice answers. None of what they taught us was review of actual skills we learned in school; they were tricks to guess the right answer. It’s a guessing game full of memorization and hacks.
Looking back at those lessons makes me sad. All the work I put into school after four long years was almost wasted over one test that was all about guessing the correct answer. I studied for weeks for my second ACT and when I sat down I knew maybe just a little more than I did before. That to me just isn’t fair. Couldn’t they make the ACT more like the subject tests we get in school and less like the test from the movie The Thinning?
We need a better system to move kids to higher education. We need to encourage kids to read more and show them better study techniques. Create them a test that actually reflects their education and what they've learned. Don’t just push students through: keep them, teach them, encourage them. Let the test be tailored to the kids.
If I could change the American education system, I would modify the English system. Young children in England go to the same kinds of schools until they're 16, when they can go two different ways: “college” or alternative "level three" qualifications. This allows them to go to a high school that teaches more about their chosen area. Yes, England does have an exam to make sure they qualify for schools (the GCSE), but from what I know it’s strictly based on the curriculum they learned, not stuff they have to guess on.
Another option would be to get rid of the ACT and SAT and require seniors to take a few college courses on a college campus. Some college courses would be designed for seniors in a variety of fields. At application time, colleges could base acceptance decisions on college course scores and behavioral descriptions. If colleges had to pay attention to a student’s conduct in class and interactions with the teacher, they would be more aware of which kids would need to take remedial classes and who was putting in the effort.
If schools actually saw my drive, they would want me.
For me, college is a place to expand my knowledge and be one step closer to getting a job in my specific field. If schools actually saw my drive, they would want me. Since all they see is a test score, my further education could be limited.
Look beyond what’s just a score and actually see the student behind it.