I know you all have heard about the changes that are constantly being talked about with standardized tests. For the longest time these tests were the golden standard. It was what separated a great school from an elite school and unless you were one of the few who were close to a perfect score, you just didn’t share your results. When we were taking these tests, in the northeast, no one had even heard about the ACT, the SAT was the only option. Many schools along the Eastern Seaboard did not accept this generally Midwestern test and almost no high school even offered it up as an option for us. That has changed tremendously now that all schools in the nation accept the ACT and more students choose to take it over the SAT.
For those parents out there, remember we would spend countless hours on our free Saturday filling out little circles until we couldn’t even see. For some of us, we were happy to be guaranteed the 200 free points for just putting our name on the test. For others, when we were completely lost in the trig section we simply started making patterns on the answer sheet. I have even admitted to my own children that I would base my answer on whether or not I had used a B or C in a while. Yet, these tests were supposed to be able to tell the colleges and the universities what we were all about, how smart we were, and what kind of student we would be while at their institution. It never occurred to them that someone could score very high because they have a high IQ and a photographic memory, however, never passed a paper in on time or did homework that they felt was beneath them. Is that the kind of student they want filling seats in their freshmen class? How about the students who could afford all the money for test prep and tutors and learned strategies to "outsmart" the College Board, does that make them better than the rest of us?
Looking back, I took the SAT’s because I had to. I didn’t do well, and when my parents made me take them again, I think I did worse! I remember the feeling of failure because of my scores. I felt stupid and unworthy, and unwanted by the very institutions I was striving towards. Then, I became angry. I knew I was smart and had a lot to offer, I was just not a great test taker. I had great skills and innate strengths that would make me successful in school and in life, but these skills and strengths were not tested on the SAT’s. How did they test work ethic, or organization skills? Could it show my fast processing speed or the way my brain could quickly identify problems using logic and then communicate those findings? How did they evaluate your character and your integrity? Was there an answer sheet that would tell them my struggles and triumphs and how I had dealt with both? The answer is No and I thank God I was a strong enough high school student to know I was worthy. My parents had instilled in me a sense of pride for who I was and to celebrate it instead of feel shameful of it. However, there are and were a lot of seventeen year olds that let those tests results dictate their worth.
Now as my own children and my friends’ children gear up to take another round of standardized tests, I applaud the changes that are happening in our country. I think the schools that held onto that golden standard for so long, are realizing those students with those great test scores, were not any smarter or more prepared for the rigor of college. Some students who score high on test scores may be weaker in areas such as organizational skills and time management, compared to those students with mediocre test scores. Colleges and universities are seeing that there is more to a student than a test score and if they look deep enough and take the time, those students with lower scores, often can bring just as much to the institutions than those with higher scores. Often those mediocre test takers are harder workers, don’t take good grades for granted and have better skills in organization and time management. Sometimes these students are more empathetic to others and have an amazing work ethic. I am not taking away from those amazingly bright students who score a perfect 36 on the ACT or a 2400 on the SAT, or anyone even close to those numbers, but I am saying, this is just one aspect of who they are, and what they have to offer.
In the news today was the announcement that University of Delaware is going to do a study for the next four years. They are not requiring standardized tests starting next year.
The College Board tried to persuade them to change their minds when they made the announcement, why, because they know for every college and university that changes their testing policies, the College Board loses money. I say, good for UDel, be a leader with the state universities who lag behind in the idea about testing compared to their counterparts, the smaller liberal arts schools. I say, open your eyes to the changes and celebrate that we are finally seeing that our children are more than just a score on a test. They are human beings with strengths and weaknesses, with triumphs and tragedy. These young lives have lived through terrorism, mass shootings, and the social media explosion, through the pressure of drug addiction and working parents. They have a story, an amazing, celebratory story, which should not begin or end with a test score.