Friday, November 13, 2009

When Kyle was in second grade, he had to take his very first standardized test--the STAR test. He was a little anxious about this new experience. The teachers told the kids to get a good night sleep and told us parents to give our children healthy snacks. Kyle could feel that something important was happening.

Before he went to sleep, I told him to not worry about the silly old test and suggested he make pretty patterns on the score card instead. This served him well. He never was nervous again taking the yearly standardized test.

Now, as he embarks on his road toward college, I wish I could offer the same advice. Instead I have hired an SAT tutor that begins today.

I have actually thought about this quite a bit since Kyle's second grade experience. In fairness, I think part of my trepidation stems from the fact that I remember how much I hated taking these impossible tests that evaluate you based on a sheet of paper with tiny black pencil marks.
It seems so impersonal and calculating. The test was so long and so boring and you always had this awful fear that you missed a line and as a result all your answers would be wrong.

In the olden days just breaking a thousand was considered good. Do you remember that? Now kids receive perfect scores on parts of the test. And the test has become even longer. Universities look at your scores to see if you are worthy to walk their halls. Hard work, ambition, creativity don't seem to mean much if you don't score well on your standardized test.

It's all so ridiculous. But for the Stanley Kaplan's, IvyWests, Compasses, Revolution's of the world we are talking big business. Out of fear of not having options, kids spend endless hours with private tutors in hopes that their bubbles will be the right bubbles.

Today, at 4:00 PM Kyle begins his bubble filling journey. He will try and learn the little tricks that make you score higher on the almighty SAT! Then after he puts in hours of prep time, he will sit in a room with hundred of other kids early one saturday morning, and begin to fill in the bubbles on his score card. It seems so impossibly arcane.

I wish I could tell him just to make pretty patterns again. It was so much simpler then. And everything made much more sense.

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