Saturday, June 07, 2008

SATs or life-long learning?

This morning I got up early, made coffee and an egg sandwich for Patrick, and helped him make sure that he had his pencils, calculator, water bottle, etc., for taking the SAT. His weeks of test prep culminate in four hours of test-taking. In a few weeks the scores will arrived and we'll know how ready he is for college. We'll know whether homeschooling has worked. Right?

Wrong. So wrong.

We'll know how well prepared he is for a particular standardized test on this particular day. Sure, there will be some tangible proof that he has excellent reading skills and vocabulary. (Anyone who has read my blog for long, or knows us, can imagine the smile this brings to my face.) We'll know if he's taking it again. (He has set a minimum goal for his score that is very ambitious.) If his score is high enough we can be certain that he will receive the same full-tuition scholarship that Bethany received.

But we absolutely will not know, from this test, how much he has learned. We won't know if he's ready for college, or how well he'll do when he gets there. I may have a pretty good idea about these things already, but that is from spending almost every day with him for almost eighteen years, not from a four hour test. We won't know that he loves to discuss the strategic strengths and weaknesses of historic military leaders. We won't know his love of good literature or his ability to find out almost anything he wants to know.

The essay portion is new to the test since Bethany took it. He is supposed to write a well-formed 400 word essay in 25 minutes. He is going to be evaluated on a number of criteria, but what I found interesting is that the kind of examples he uses to support his thesis don't matter. An example from personal experience or opinion counts just as much as an example drawn from knowledge of philosophy, science, mathematics, literature, or--as Patrick's often are--from history.

I'd take real knowledge over opinion and love of learning over a high score on a standardized test. But the world looks to these results, so we jump through their hoops, wasting hours of productivity to learn the test.

7 comments:

Meg_L said...

I hope he did well!

Jane said...

He felt really good after he finished.

Anan said...

Hey! I can relate remarkably well to this post... Hmmm... Did you know that "studies have shown" that you also get a higher score on the essay if you simply fill both pages?

Marie N. said...

We're experimenting with our first standardized test this summer. I'm curious to see how dd will do with the type of test and duration of the test. I didn't want her first exposure to be in high school.

Polly said...

I'm one of those weird people who always loved standardized tests.

Go Patrick! Bring on the full ride..........

Jane said...

Oh, I always loved them, too! Patrick does not. :)

Groovy Mom said...

You're a pro now. A veteran. All this college stuff gives me a rash. Maybe you should write a post with tips for parents facing the hoops for the first time.