The Herald, Sharon, Pa.


March 10, 2014

Stories about tests such as SATs, ACTs, make me cringe

An Editor's Notes

- — Almost nothing gets under my skin more than mentions of SATs, ACTs, and other forms of standardized testing.

While I have taught at the college level, I have no formal degree in education. But throughout my experiences as a student and teaching in college, I believe that such tests are far from an accurate forecast of the potential of most students, especially when it relates to a prediction of success in a chosen career.

I look at all of these tests, especially ones mandated by the state, as having little to do with educating our kids, but eveything to do with providing politicians with a convenient measuring stick when it comes to doling out funds to school districts.

When I was in high school, I remember students who struggled with SATs to break the former magical threshold of 800 – many of whom have had successful careers throughout their adult lives.

I had friends who took the SATs multiple times to try to get beyond 800, or try to do better and maybe get to between 900 or 1,000.

They decided to retake the test on a different day maybe when they were feeling better or with the hope that they wouldn’t be as nervous the second time around.

Some kids simply don’t test well. Others may score higher, especially with the help of tutoring and modern study guides for SAT and ACT tests, which I believe provide a questionable snapshot of a student’s aptitude, at best.

Today, kids retake the test to see how close to perfect they can get, with the help, of course, of tutoring and study guides.

Long gone are the days of simply showing up on the day of SAT tests with a #2 pencil in hand, and taking the tests cold like we did as students in the late 1960s.

I have taught journalism throughout the years at two area colleges that demand high SAT or ACT scores as a key requirement for admission. I have had students with SAT scores off the charts, and many of them struggled to write a coherent sentence, some appearing to be unaware of a complete sentence, with agreeing subjects and verbs.

I had similar experiences when The Herald formerly sponsored its NIE Academic All-Stars Program, in which students were required to write essays to accompany their nominations.

I enjoy my conversations with friends who are teachers and who wrestle with the merits of standardized testing. They, unlike me, have degrees in education and full-time jobs trying to educate our kids, but like me express frustration in dealing with such tests, holding them in the same regard that I do and viewing them as barriers rather than pathways in the educational process.

It leaves one to wonder – who develops these tests and how much input do teachers have in the process – with an emphasis on teachers rather than “educators?”

It may be a shortcoming, but I have little patience for the placing of such importance on tests that in my view, do little to advance the education of our kids but only serve as a convenient factor to determine things other than the learning prowess of students.

Jim Raykie is the editor of The Herald and his column appears on Mondays.

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