Terrifying Tests

I can remember being a senior in high school and taking a tour of the local community college with my fellow classmates.  After the tour, we had to take the COMPASS placement test.  I was totally confused.  I thought that the ACT was the big test that determined your academic future.  As it turns out, I was wrong.

This test consisted of English and Math questions.  I was terrified.  While English has always been my strong suit, math has not.  When the test was over, I had a horrible feeling.  Sure enough, I had aced the English, but did not do very well with the math.

Therefore, the college stated that I needed to begin in the Basic Algebra class.  Wait a minute.  I had already taken algebra in high school and passed with an “A.”  In fact, (not to brag, but make a point), I was a straight “A” student.  I had taken several Advanced Placement classes, which included all of my English courses since Freshmen year and a History course my Junior year.  Algebra is algebra.  Pie is still going to equal 3.14.  Why, then, do I have to start at the beginning of the math sequence based on this one-time test?  Why did all of my hard work in high school not count for anything?

What breaks my heart is that I see this same pattern with many new students.  I cannot understand why a college thinks that your entire academic future should be determined by a single test.  This creates a tremendous amount of pressure on the student.  I myself, felt sick to my stomach and was continually sweating during the test.  And this does not bode well for clear and level thinking. 

Not to mention the fact that some of the programs that the students wish to enter in to do not even require math.  Why should they be tested on something that they will not need?  Granted, everyone should know how to add and subtract and certainly how to read.  But, further than that, a student’s course load should focus on courses NEEDED for the program.  I think that some colleges use the test in order to boost numbers in Math and English classes.  Let’s face it, if you don’t have to take an English or Math course, you won’t!  I cannot think of a single classmate that said, “Man, I hope I get to take tons of math classes in college!”

I feel that more people would enroll in college if the courses they were told to take truly pertained to their program.  However, imposing these tests makes that dream next to impossible.  I remember feeling the same way during the ACT.  And guess what?  That magical number did not affect my life AT ALL.  The number was not used to get me into college, was not good for a scholarship and had absolutely no bearing on the jobs that I was hired to.  So, why force students to take these tests?

In more recent legislation, states are tying school funding along with a teacher’s potential raise to overall class scores on standardized tests.  How crazy is that?  Now, you are placing the teacher’s financial future on the line with a single test.  Seriously?  No matter how amazing a teacher is, he/she cannot truly prepare you for such a monstrosity.  I have since learned that children in the third grade even have geometry on their test.  Geometry!  That is a subject that I struggled with in my early 20’s!  Granted, I do believe that the teacher’s ability should be evaluated.  Children should learn how to read and perform basic math functions.  But to push for subjects such as geometry and even Spanish?  That is simply pushing the envelope too far.

No wonder some children fear school!  They are made to believe that it is a scary place filled with tests that will destroy their future if they do not give perfect answers.  I am here to state that this myth is simply not true.  Every child learns at a different rate.  They should not have information crammed into their heads weeks before the ISAT (or any other state mandated test) in hopes that better scores will be achieved.

I truly believe that a student’s academic progress should be judged by the overall grade that he/she receives in the class.  Not the score that they receive from one test.  Why should one test undo all of the student’s hard work that has been achieved over the course of their academic career?  That would be like going on one date with someone and then having the person say, “So, are we getting married, or what?”

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