Monday, April 28, 2008

parking, parks, tests, and tantrums

Last week our family participated in a strange cultural phenomenon: standardized testing. When I was a little girl, I loved testing. It was my favorite part of the school year aside from field trips. Tests always seemed to bring out in me a thrilling rush of adrenaline, and I usually performed well beyond what I actually knew or understood.

Case in point: upon entering college we had to take a math placement exam which I completely aced. In fact, on the whole exam, I missed one question. This completely floored me because I had guessed on more than half the test. Because of this, they told me that although I only needed Math 111 for my degree, they felt I would be better served to take 121. Not knowing any different, I agreed.

The first day of class, the professor handed us a test and told us that if we were going to pass the class we needed to score 100% on the test. If we didn't, we should go ahead and drop the class. I made a 32. If you know me, you know that I don't like to be told that I cannot do something...anything. I went to the professor and told him that I wanted to make an A in his class. He told me that I could not do it. I said, "If I could do it, what would it take to make it happen?" He gave me extra work to catch me up to where I needed to be in the form of about 3 times the homework that everyone else had. My next test I scored a 54. Not very encouraging. Next came an 80 something, then 113 then 115, and every other score was more than 100% (I got all the extra credit...yep, I became the hated student who threw off the grading curve). Pulled an A in the class.

What's my point? I'm just wondering if these tests are really as indicative of aptitude as officials make them out to be. While I always performed quite well in these tests (testing Post-High School from elementary school on), I did not follow this with stellar performance in college. Nor did I ever attend graduate school. Nor do I even make use of my degree in any way whatsoever at this point in my life. On the other hand, I know several people who received average scores in standardized testing yet went on to have higher grades in college or complete more complicated degrees in less time, then moved on to Ivy League graduate schools, and landed high dollar jobs.

My older brother is virtually a walking encyclopedia. One of my most thrilling moments in life was when I recently found that I knew something he didn't already know. It was the first time I ever remembered that happening. Although he didn't completely bomb out, he certainly never placed as high as I did.

The moral of the story is this: if you find yourself stressed out because you take your children to their first CRCTs and have to pay $8 a day for parking, wait an hour and a half for the thing to actually start (after receiving no fewer than 10 emails stating that anyone who comes 15 minutes late will have to go home and schedule make-up exams), wrestle your younger three kids around a park for the two hours and ten minutes of supposed testing time (without a stroller or snacks or water) only to find when you arrive promptly 2 hours and 10 minutes later (which is in itself somewhat of a miracle) that they haven't even begun the second hour-long test so you have to wait in a cramped hallway with your perfectly behaved toddlers who decide to throw simultaneous tantrums in said hallway which, by the way, is littered with signs that say "QUIET...TESTING IN PROGRESS"........don't despair.

If you figure out why we shouldn't despair, let me know. The best I could come up with was that it's over now and we survived. And the rest of the week did get better. I remembered to bring the stroller.


Michelle said...

Heh, I've been there without the stroller before. I've quickly learned that it needs to live in my car.

And standardized testing? Proves that you test well and sorta know the material. Nothing about aptitude or desire or determination or any of those other things that really make a difference in the end. Sometimes they all come in one package, but usually not.

Shelley said...

I've had visions of throwing tantrums myself over the stroller thing. I put it in the car...someone takes it out...I don't know it's gone...I have a bad day.

I'll have more on the testing issue hopefully throughout the week. Yes, there's more.