PSAT Nightmares

This week, and this weekend, begin the PSAT nightmares for both teens and their parents.

For different reasons of course.

Standardized testing, apparently was invented over a hundred years ago, something I would not have thought, but read (recently) from Seth Godin’s work (manifesto) Stop Stealing Dreams. Here is a quoted section of that work:

“10. Frederick J. Kelly and your nightmares

In 1914, a professor in Kansas invented the multiple-choice test. Yes, it’s less than a hundred years old.

There was an emergency on. World War I was ramping up, hundreds of thousands of new immigrants needed to be processed and educated, and factories were hungry for workers. The government had just made two years of high school mandatory, and we needed a temporary, high-efficiency way to sort students and quickly assign them to appropriate slots.

In the words of Professor Kelly, ‘This is a test of lower order thinking for the lower orders.’

A few years later, as President of the University of Idaho, Kelly disowned the idea, pointing out that it was an appropriate method to test only a tiny portion of what is actually taught and should be abandoned. The industrialists and the mass educators revolted and he was fired.

The SAT, the single most important filtering device used to measure the effect of school on each individual, is based (almost without change) on Kelly’s lower-order thinking test. Still.

The reason is simple. Not because it works. No, we do it because it’s the easy and efficient way to keep the mass production of students moving forward.”

You can download and read the entire work by visiting his page dedicated to the work, if you want (I suggest you do.)  It is easy to read the way he has written it but draws out strong emotions.

I had started it about a month ago when he shared it (again) in his daily blog, school was starting, we were helping pay huge sums of college tuition fees and then, I got side-tracked. It is long. I had to work. Something else popped up on my screen, my radar, my phone beeped, the kids asked me a question, I had to go somewhere.

Now, as we are being asked to update annual financial aid reports, I am reminded of the importance in scholarships – our sophomore year son is taking his PSATs – it is really, really important. Unfortunately, no one likes them – not the students, not the parents and not the teachers – but, they are a must-do for every college-bound student. (As are the SATs, MCATs, ACTs, CATs, PSSAs, Keystones – and whatever they call them in your state.)

I am reminded of his sister’s strong dislike for standardized tests. The fear and loathing (maybe not her words, but still, quite serious.) The nerves, anxiety and the nightmares that wake them up for weeks prior and during the testing weeks.

Finally, we have modern understanding, belief and protests, that teaching to the test doesn’t work. Yet, it still happens. Every single year. In towns and schools all across America.

We need it to stop.

Tell them a story and they remember it, in vivid detail; show them how something works, they can ask questions, posture why it works the way it does. Let them build it, reconstruct the experiment, try different alternatives to get the same results. Put it on a television show, in a card-swap game or even in a digital, AR version (PokemonGo).  Any of those options.

They all work, better.

But, no. Standardized tests are what we have…

We are not quite sure how else to judge, so we keep pressuring to follow the norm. We are continuing to create PSAT nightmares; but luckily for some, it stops after they close the book, put down their pencil and text us that they are finished.  Those are the lucky ones, regardless of score and results – they take them, shrug their shoulders (and maybe, or hopefully,) go looking for memes that explain what they just had to go through. The alternative, is far worse. I for one am hoping for a good meme, or just a smile when he walks out of the High School on Saturday morning.  I am certainly hoping that I hear yet another story of a parent who had to take their child to therapy afterwards.

~ Dawn aka Hat Girl

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