Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Testing The Limits

It's called the "Scholastic Aptitude Test." Prospective college students across the land are lining up, IDs and number two pencils in hand, to take this assessment in hopes of impressing someone with their score. Their scholastic aptitude score. My son sat in a room for four hours this past weekend, packed in with a great many of his contemporaries, filling in those little bubbles as a measure of all he knows.
Of course, this isn't any sort of absolute measure. It's a yardstick that has been in place since before his father sat in a similar room and filled in a similar group of bubbles. The happy news is that filling in bubbles on standardized tests is something at which my son excels. Even as his grades had drifted south of C, he has continued to surprise and defy expectations in this particular arena. Good for him. I am a tad chagrined at the notion of a test that is supposed to measure one's scholastic aptitude. Isn't that all of them? He's been taking tests of his scholastic aptitude for more than a decade now, and he continues to show up as a pretty bright kid.
And yet, he still has to prove it. Over and over again. Exam after quiz after analysis. Essay after fill in the blank after multiple choice. He's cleared those hurdles, often with plenty of room to spare. Now he's hit the big time: college board admission tests. If he scores 2400, if he gets all the questions right, will he be college material? If he already knows all that stuff, does he really need to go to college? Couldn't he just transcend all that mess and move on into a comfortable adulthood where tests become a thing of the past?
When I found out that, to become a teacher, I would have to take a pair of tests, I almost gave up right then and there. I was becoming a teacher so that I could give people tests, not to have them administered to me. This was the cosmic joke I learned: We're never done taking tests of one sort or another. What my son did this past Saturday just opened the floodgates on a whole slew of additional opportunities to pick the correct response. Good luck to him. Good luck to us all.

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